Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keeping an Eye on Slippery Spots and Our Children

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keeping an Eye on Slippery Spots and Our Children

Article excerpt

LAST MONDAY, speed-skater Dan Jansen lost his balance as he roared around a turn in the 500-meter race at the Winter Olympics. That slip cost him a chance for a medal.

A television reporter rushed up to Jansen's coach, who looked heart-broken. The reporter breathlessly mentioned that another skater had also lost his balance at the same turn.

"Do you think it's slippery out there?" the television reporter asked.

The coach gave him a sad and quizzical look.

"The ice is always slippery," he said.

If you're looking for a metaphor that describes life, how can you do better than that?

It's especially apt for parents. At least that's the thought that struck me as I sat on the couch, a child on either side.

The ice is always slippery. Just as Jansen trained for years, only to lose his balance at the most inappropriate time, you can do your very best as a parent, and then the unthinkable happens.

One reason the coach's remark struck home was because the very next morning, I was scheduled to go to Wayne County with a detective. The detective and a couple of evidence technicians wanted to visit the spot where the body of 11-year-old Elissa Self-Braun was found four years ago. The man who is accused of murdering her is scheduled to go on trial this week.

Elissa disappeared on her way to the bus stop three years ago.

The publicity about the recent child abductions has been difficult on the family. Most troubling have been the television news "special reports" about ways in which a parent can make his or her children "street-safe."

The family resented the implication - that children who get snatched have not been taught to be wary of strangers.

"Elissa was very `street-safe,' " her mother says.

Knowing her mother, I'm sure she was. But in some circumstances, no amount of training is sufficient. If the wrong person happens to be on the street, no child is safe.

And you never know when it can happen. It's like the coach said, the ice is always slippery.

Same thing with the meningitis that has afflicted several local children.

Symptom-wise, it resembled the flu, say the doctors. Be concerned about headaches, say the health officials.

But this is flu season. …

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