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Beyond Heartbreaking - Samantha Runnion - Gone Too Soon

Another child, another abduction, another series of headlines. A child at play, now a child at rest. A family whose lives have forever been altered, violated, ripped asunder. A city, a state, a nation, a globe, again left open mouthed, yet silenced by incomprehension.

Words cannot begin to express the rage, the pain, the thirst for vengeance being felt by every decent person who has read the details of little Samantha Runnion. We cannot begin to understand, do not want to understand, the kind of person who could perpetrate such a heinous act upon an innocent child. Yet while our minds run from thoughts of what she must have endured, we must, as parents, turn and face the horror in an effort to better protect our own children.

I have three daughters. Three children whom I consider my greatest accomplishments, greatest responsibilities, greatest gifts. One of them is but weeks from turning six years old - the same birthday Samantha had eagerly anticipated, the same number of candles she will never have the chance to blow out. She wants roller skates, video games and a Lilo & Stitch birthday cake. We will get her these things, but we have also decided to give her a difficult yet priceless gift - information.

Like any parent, my husband and I fight daily to preserve our children's innocence. Kids grow up all too soon, encouraged to do so by the industries of fashion, music, movies and television. Innuendo, a word I could not even spell in high school, is now foisted upon and understood by kids still in grammar school. And while we make our attempts to shelter them from sexual lyrics, violent video games and reality TV, it is time we accept the fact that in one arena of their lives, information is power and ignorance is not bliss.

Many parents kept 9/11 away from their children - a feat I still marvel at. Afraid of exposing the kids - regardless of age - to the horrors of man's inhumanity to man, they managed to insulate their children from the endless onslaught of media. When Elizabeth Smart and Danielle Van Damme disappeared from their beds, they refused to discuss the abductions, not wanting to risk nightmares, convinced they were doing the right thing.
We can no longer afford to insulate, isolate or shelter the world's children from the fact that there are bad people who do very bad things. We teach them math, we teach them spelling, we teach them manners and hygiene. We must now teach them reality.

Sit your children down. Explain in terms their ages can understand that another little girl has been taken. Explain where - from her front porch. Explain how - details of sexual assault need not be graphically defined. Explain NOW - so it is not too late. Explain that the oldest "trick in the book" was used - "Can you help me find my dog?". And explain that bad people don't necessarily look bad, act bad, have fangs...don't be afraid to make them a little afraid. And finally, show them Samantha's picture. When you put her face to what you are explaining, they will understand.

Empower your children with information. Then maybe, just maybe I will never again have to face this keyboard, typing another child's name - your child's name - looking at another child's innocent face - your child's innocent face.

In memory of Samantha Runnion and all the children who have gone too soon. Children with the faces of angels, children who are surely angels now.

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Copyright Linda Sharp. Linda is an internationally recognized author & columnist whose work wraps around the globe to appear in print publications from Maine to Malaysia, as well as across the web. Linda is also creator of the totally irreverent and hysterical website, "Sanity Central: A Time Out From Parenting!" Her latest book, Stretchmarks On My Sanity: The Growing Pains of Raising a Family, has earned her rave reviews and comparisons to the late Erma Bombeck. She may be reached via email at lsharp03@aol.com. Reprinted with permission.

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