Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The kids need us

Last week, a 14-year old girl from down Middle River way was killed when she was struck by the Amtrak train. She and a friend were walking to school, obviously not in an approved path, when the train came up on them. Her friend was able to jump to safety; young Anna was not.

The railroad tracks down this way are near Martin State Airport and also by Geresbeck's, the great grocery store on our East side. Consequently, I have been down that way, cruising along Eastern Avenue, and suddenly with a terrific whoooooooosh, here's the train. They go fast and they run pretty quietly and this young lady was not the first person killed by them.

But now comes the debate.

Our state just lost a 12-year old girl down in Salisbury; her body was found on Christmas Day, just days after she was kidnapped, apparently by her custodial aunt's ex-boyfriend, a man who was listed as a child sex abuser in two states, and who had raped another young woman in 2001 and was, beyond belief, out walking around doing more ineffable deeds. There is, and rightly so, a hue and cry to overhaul the laws that allow such individuals to be paroled after serving fractions of their sentences. Too late for this young lady down on the Eastern shore, but perhaps her loss is a signal to us all that certain people need - deserve - to be locked away from the rest of us for a good long while. I don't care if they're being rehabilitated; just keep them away from us!

Some are saying that we have to look at the death of the 14-year-old in much the same way, that we need to build more fences, higher fences, so that no one will cut across the tracks. There are fences there, but there will always be those who cut down the fences to make a shortcut, or vault 12 feet over an 11 foot fence to save a few minutes. There are signs and there is also a great need for parents and other influential people to teach the kids that cutting across the tracks has fatal consequences.

We can't build impenetrable walls around railroad tracks and highways and every other place where a pedestrian faces danger. At some point we have to assume a certain risk in life. But a sweet little 12-year old should never be at risk while sleeping in her own bed, and we can do something about the sort of people who would prey on her and others like her.

I mourn both losses, and pray for their families to find peace. As a society, do you think we might spend a little less time worrying about how many women some golfer slept with and think a little more about how to keep the children safe?

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