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Saturday marks 40th anniversary of one of the first times a missing child made national news

Etan Patz was one of the first nationally known missing children who went missing on May 25, 1979. His disappearance date was made into National Missing Children's Day. Stanley K. Patz / Wikimedia Commons / Special to The Forum

FARGO — Before 1980, the American public seldom heard about missing children. But all of that changed with the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz on May 25, 1979.

Patz had disappeared on his way to his school bus stop in New York City that morning. Etan’s father was a professional photographer and he started distributing black-and-white photographs of his son all over the city. The result was a massive search and media attention that focused the public’s attention on the problem of child abductions and the lack of plans to address them.

Despite his efforts, Patz was never found. His killer finally confessed and was convicted in 2017.

May 25, the date of Etan’s disappearance, was designated as National Missing Children’s Day in 1983. The purpose of the day was to encourage parents, guardians, caregivers and others to make the safety and well-being of children our nation's top priority.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) was behind the founding of the day. The organization was founded by John Walsh after the disappearance of 6-year-old son Adam in a Florida mall in 1981. Adam was found dead two weeks later. John Walsh would go on to found the NCMEC and become a advocate for victims of violent crime and host of "America's Most Wanted."

In 2018, the NCMEC assisted law enforcement and families with more than 25,000 cases of missing children. Approximately 92 percent of missing children are endangered runaways, 4 percent are the result of family abductions and less than 1 percent are non-family abductions.

Other holidays this week

  • Monday, May 20: Quiche Lorraine Day
  • Tuesday, May 21: American Red Cross Founder's Day
  • Wednesday, May 22: Maritime Day
  • Thursday, May 23: Taffy Day
  • Friday, May 24: Escargot Day
  • Saturday, May 25: Wine Day
  • Sunday, May 26: Blueberry Cheesecake Day

The Monday Mark looks at lesser-known holidays each week. Reach Forum reporter and "The Scoop" host Tracy Briggs at 701-451-5632 or tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com.

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