A Ride to Nowhere

A boy sneaking out of his house usually isn’t news.

Heck, I remember the time I first did it.

When I was about 5, my mother turned her head while ironing clothes and I exited through an unlatched door. Somehow, six blocks later, I arrived at a grocery store where we never shopped, grabbed a toy plastic stegosaurus and headed home.

I ended up with a paddling and a good story to tell my grandchildren.

A case in Minnesota didn’t conclude so innocently.

A 9-year-old boy slipped past all airport checkpoints, boarded a plane without a ticket and took a free ride to Las Vegas before authorities could get a clue. Most national media reports focused on the security breach, which in a post-9/11 world is incredible and disturbing.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about this boy.

Here was a kid who should be out playing youth baseball or watching cartoons, not running from the cops. Turns out he had had previous run-ins with authorities, entering a water park without paying and stealing a truck and crashing it into a police car.

Child protective services had been in and out of this youth’s life several times.

A news station played a recording from his dad, who said, “I love my son. I miss my son.”

I heard the pain in his voice and I winced.

A 9-year-old should have a future, not a criminal past.

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