National Missing Children’s Day

A face on a milk carton.
Amber alerts.
Missing persons posters.

President Ronald Reagan declared May 25 as National Missing Children’s Day in 1983 after a child from New York City went missing and was never found. His disappearance sparked the missing children’s movement and his face was the first to be on a milk carton. The day is marked to raise awareness on those missing and to reflect on past disappearances.

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System shows that currently there are 340 missing persons cases in Oregon, with more males missing than females.

The Eugene Police Department reported on May 13 a suspicious male attempted to make contact with two children at Emerald Park. The suspect tried to direct the children into his vehicle; they refused and immediately ran off. EPD said abductions are extremely rare by strangers, but it’s important to teach people about personal safety.

A missing person case could range from child abductions, which is when amber alerts are sent out, runaways, or someone who ends up being found shortly after reported missing.

“We have numerous cases throughout the year [in Eugene], it’s difficult to place a number on the amount of reports we get because a missing person isn’t always in danger,” John Hankemeier from the EPD said. “Often when the media hears about people who are missing-it’s when the safety of the person is threatened.”

In February this year, University of Oregon alumnus Noah Michael DeWitt went missing. He was last seen at The Heart and Spoon Community House. He was shoeless, phoneless and without money. KVAL reported a sighting of DeWitt, near Winston, Oregon, attempting to hitchhike southbound. Posters were placed around Eugene all the way to Coos Bay, but there was no official trace of DeWitt.

Three months later, he is still missing.

When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal in April, UO student Amber Brazil was reported missing. She and her friend had to hike five hours until they could be rescued, according to the Register-Guard.

Kelly McIver, communications officer for the University of Oregon Police Department said in October 2011, a student was reported missing from Barnhart Hall, but was found the following day.

Four Ethiopian track and field athletes were reported missing on July 25, 2014 from the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene. The UOPD investigated the missing persons case and, after a four-day search, successfully made contact with the athletes, who were safe.

The family members of these missing people were able to hear from their loved ones, but in a lot of cases, such as DeWitt’s, these family members and friends may never get the chance to speak to them again.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children site says, “Knowledge and awareness are key in keeping your loved ones safer.” May 25 is a commitment to help locate missing children and people can do so by playing close attention to missing persons’ posters, help distribute missing person’s posters or donate to help assist victims and prevent child abduction.

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Ally Brayton

Ally Brayton