the sign on Leiby Kletzky’s door

I am excited to have had this post syndicated on Check it out here if you’re so inclined…

 If you’re anything like me, you have been disgusted by every detail of the kidnapping and murder of eight-year-old Brooklynite Leiby Kletzky, and yet compelled to know more. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to hide the newspaper for three days running, or change the channel every time my kids entered the room. But I have to keep looking. 

I raise my children in New York City. I have an eight-year-old son who is starting to long for his independence. My first apartment when I moved to New York was four blocks from where Leiby’s body was found in a dumpster. This hits way, way too close to home.

I cannot stop thinking about Leiby’s mother, how carefully she must have weighed whether Leiby was old enough to walk home from day camp by himself. Maybe she thought he wasn’t ready. Maybe someone told her, oh, c’mon, we’ve got the lowest crime rate in all of Brooklyn. He’ll be FINE. Maybe she agreed only when she saw how excited her son was to take that walk on his own for the first time. Maybe she thought, oh, I’m just being silly. Maybe she didn’t even worry that much the first five, ten, fifteen minutes she expected him home. I go to sleep at night and think about her, and wonder if she will ever find a moment’s comfort again, ever have another hour without an if-I-had-only to haunt her.

For her sake, at least, I take comfort in this: the entire Hasidic community is rallying around her and around Leiby’s father, protecting them from all the details of what happened to their son. They know he is gone– of what use is anything more? A sign has been posted on their front door, and what it says is something like this: there are things this family does not need to know. Do not be the ones to tell them. Everyone is working together to protect this broken family. I hope, in these days of murdered children’s cellphone voice mails being hijacked, that the world will honor that request. 

Someday, all too soon, Leiby’s mother will want to know everything, will HAVE to know– but I hope that even then, there will be arms on all sides to hold her up, and keep her safe. If you believe in a higher power, please join me in a prayer that Mrs. Kletzky’s God will be her refuge.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Keelie Sheridan July 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm

It’s been so difficult to follow this story. I’m a teacher in Brooklyn, and many of my students his age walk home by themselves. It’s so hard to imagine what his family is going through, but fortunately they’re being surrounded by such a supportive community. 


Anonymous July 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I was just talking to my mom about this story today- I remember well walking home from school in the 4th grade, when I was nine. Do we chalk this up to one-in-a-million tragedy, and let our kids have that freedom? Or do we hold them tighter? In New York City, I think the answer is clear (the latter), but there are some who would disagree.


Jennifer - @jleephotonyc July 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm

So hard to know what to do?? My eleven year old walks around – but at most times with at least one or two friends – does that make them any safer? I pray that it does.


Co_herrin July 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm

It is SUCH a terrible story, and I am sorry this one has hit so close to home for you. I say “this one” because children are murdered every day all around the country, and it is unfortunately not uncommon. That is what keeps me up at night – why would anyone hurt a child. I am very emotional about any type of abuse being directed at children, especially as the pregnancy hormones race through my body, and the abuse I see at my job, where I work at a domestic violence agency. I pray that people stop killing children.


Meredith Lopez July 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Oh, Amy. Thank you for posting this.


the mama bird diaries July 16, 2011 at 2:00 am

This is such an awful story. Everyone should teach their children… if they are ever lost – look for a mommy with kids. That mommy will call your mommy. Make sure they have your cell phone memorized.


Anonymous July 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Sounds like you’ve read “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin deBecker, which I think is required reading for any parent. I reviewed those very rules (and checked the memorization of my cell phone number) as soon as I heard this story.


Missy @ Wonder, Friend July 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm

So perfectly said. My heart aches for this family.


Elizabeth Bram July 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm

it is beyond tragic. It reminds me that we all need to be ‘my brother’s keeper’ and as a community, we MUST make it our business to keep our eyes out and protect our children. Yes, we must let them grow and become independent slowly by doing such things as walking to and from school/camp. But, all of us – adults with children, adults without, need to vigilantly teach kids not to go into cars with strangers and if forced, to yell, “THIS IS NOT MY MOTHER. THIS IS NOT MY FATHER!” And, we need to be aware of kids around us and question if we see something not right.


hayley July 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Amy, we were just talking about it last night. The thing that scares me is that children, no matter what you tell them, are so young and impressionable. As they should be! I tell my son “no one is coming to get you but me, no matter what they tell you.” But will he really understand to kick and scream if someone – Godforbid- tried to take him? With that said, all the kids in our New Jersey suburb walk home from school by 3rd grade. It’s four blocks and I’m excited when his day comes to walk home. But these monsters are predators. Very scary. 


brisher July 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I thought about this boy all weekend. Thank you for summing up what I was thinking about his mom too.


Practicing Mama July 19, 2011 at 4:23 am

Not since the Etan Patz case over 30 years ago have NYC parents been forced to ponder such a heinous crime against a child and figure out how to walk the fine line between protecting their children and giving them the indepedence and autonomy they need to grow up and thrive as adults.

The statistics on missing children and these types of crimes have been flat for some years now. There haven’t actually been more of them, they merely have been reported on and sensationalized more in recent times. But the statistics don’t particularly matter, do you, if your child is the one who is the victim?

Thank you for posting on this timely issue.


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