It takes a lot to shock New York, but the city and its suburbs are gasping today in shock, horror and fear at this week’s death and dismemberment of Leiby Kletzky, an eight-year-old boy kidnapped while walking home — for the first time — from day camp.
From today’s New York Times:
The funeral for the boy swelled to capacity before its scheduled start time at 8:30, prompting many of the thousands who could not get in to gather behind police barricades, crowding neighborhood streets as they waited to pay their respects to the young boy, Leiby Kletzky, whose remains were discovered earlier in the day. Throngs of police officers and members of a local security patrol group, the shomrim, kept order as a steady stream of visitors poured into the courtyard, adjacent to a school between 16th and 17th Avenues, within two blocks of where the boy lived. One of the shomrim volunteers estimated close to 8,000 people were in attendance.
That the alleged killer is a fellow Jew, that it happened within the confines of Borough Park, a heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood where many small children live, has made the horror even worse.
The murder is terrifying for every parent, every child, everyone — and I have no kids — who deeply values trust, kindness, the benevolent stranger who will, when you are wandering and scared, help you.
Not kill you.
This story hit me hard because I have, many times, placed my trust — as a woman, alone, often in foreign countries — in strangers. I have gotten into their cars and trucks, have accepted spontaneous invitations into their homes, stayed in their apartments and houses. In not one instance, ever, was I scared, threatened, propositioned, aggressed.
I made friends, ate some great meals, had wonderful adventures. In Palermo, 26, alone, I met two men in the vegetable market, the Vucciria, like me out taking photos. When I ran out of film (these were the 80s) one gave me a roll, a generous gesture when color film overseas was costly. Astor and Nini invited me to their apartment for lunch. I was alone, female, carrying Nikon cameras. A total mark.
I went. Lunch was amazing: fun, a few others for company, and then they dropped me off at the TV station where I had an interview later that day.
It could have ended very badly. It did not.
The problem every parent faces, and each of us must negotiate — at every age — is when, where and how much (if?) to trust someone we do not know, have recently met and whose motives appear kind and helpful.
They can be evil. They can be a predator.
I know this, too, having become, home in New York, the victim of a con man, a convicted felon who brought me a pot of homemade soup, who showered me with affection and lavish praises…all in order to gain access to my credit cards, finances and who knows what else.
The police and DA laughed at my naievete, shrugged off the fact he’d committed six felonies in the time I knew him (from opening my mail to using my credit card to forging my signtaure) — and left me with the sad, dark and undeniable knowledge that monsters do live among us.