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Etan Patz: His disappearance started the era of parent anxiety

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Etan was one of the first missing children whose face would appear on a milk carton. In the coming years more faces would follow, mutely appealing for help from a public that began, for the first time, to mobilize on a grand scale in its efforts to find them. Even now, after more than 30 years, we still haven't given up hope for a resolution, for answers to every parent's worst nightmare.

Last week, authorities began ripping up an old basement near Etan's SoHo loft with the aim of finding his remains, spurred on by a cadaver-sniffing dog that picked up a scent there.

"He was here the whole time for all of us," said Cass Collins, Stratton's wife. "He was always in our thoughts."

The ones who never made it home are painfully seared in the nation's collective memory. There was 6-year-old Adam Walsh, kidnapped and killed in 1981 when he wandered away from his mother at a department store in Hollywood, Fla.

There was 12-year-old paperboy Johnny Gosch, never again seen after vanishing on his newspaper route in 1982 in West Des Moines, Iowa.

There was Jacob Wetterling, abducted by a masked gunman in 1989 while riding his bicycle home from a convenience store in St. Joseph, Minn.

"There were some kids who biked around with a switchblade in their basket after it happened," said Alison Feigh, who grew up with Jacob Wetterling and sat next to him in sixth-grade math class. "There was a change of our innocence at that time. In sixth grade, I didn't even have the word abduction – that wasn't even part of my vocabulary."

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