By now I'm sure most of you know my attitude on sensational journalism, especially when it comes to highlighting cute, little white children or hot, young white women. (If you're new and you don't know, then welcome aboard! You'll find out pretty quickly.) The news of three young boys found dead in their grandmother's car trunk a few weeks ago was tragic. And it's commendable that their plight was highlighted while they were still missing, even though they were middle-class Hispanics. In short, the three boys were playing in one of the boy's grandmother's car. They opened the trunk, climbed in, and got stuck there. The families called the police and a massive search in Camden, NJ got underway. Nobody thought to search the car, which was unused and in an overgrown yard. Originally, I said (to my wife, not to the blogosphere) that this was a tragic situation where nobody was to blame. Children do stupid things sometimes. Stories like The Bridge to Terabithia and My Girl have always freaked me out, as the childrens' deaths are all but unpreventable. I once saw a TV movie when I was a kid that showed a boy falling backwards out of his treehouse and breaking his spine, dying instantly. I had nightmares for weeks.
I empathized with the Camden boys, too. I related to my wife a story of my own from when I was their age. My parents had a minivan. The back seat folded down, and when the back hatch was closed, it created a small space in the bottom rear corner of the vehicle. I was curious what it was like back there, so I pulled the hatch shut, lay down, and pulled the seat on top of me until it clicked. I couldn't tell you what it was like, because immediately I realized I'd done something stupid. I was jammed in there tight and could barely move a muscle. It took several minutes of panicked wiggling to move my arm enough to release the seat. Had I pulled this stunt in something like a refrigerator or had I been maybe 10 pounds fatter, I might have been in real trouble.
That being said, my whole attitude changed (towards one of the families, not the boys) today when I read that evidence showed that the boys were still alive when the police search began. Nobody thought to seach the grandmother's car. It wasn't until days later when one of the fathers opened the trunk that the grisly discovery was made. Now the Cruz family is holding the police responsible for the deaths. "However, a lawyer for Anibal Cruz's family said responsibility for the deaths is now 'squarely on the shoulders of the police.'" The Cruz family has not decided whether or not to sue.
Now, it's true that the police are undergoing an internal investigation as to why they did not search the car earlier. Clearly, it would have been a smart place to look, especially since hindsight is the proverbial 20-20 and the case got national attention. But that doesn't make the tragedy their fault. A) The boys were unsupervised. B) The car in question was unlocked and witnesses remember seeing the boys playing in it. C) Neither the owner of the car nor the family of the owner of the car nor the family of the other two boys thought to look in the car at any point. Mrs. Cruz, if you really want to assign blame (although I believe there is none to assign), point the finger at yourself for not teaching your son to keep himself out of danger. Point the finger at yourself for not looking in the car. Don't blame their deaths on the people who came out to help. They didn't lock your son in the trunk and they didn't prevent you from finding them.
It's interesting to note that at least one mother says she has no intentions of suing. Iraida Agosto, the mother of the 6-year old, whose husband found the bodies, is not blaming anyone. It "isn't going to help us bring him back," she wisely said. It's also interesting to note that the Cruz boy was the 11-year old, the one who should have known better.