Last summer, Leiby Kletzky, 8, lost on his way home from summer camp, was abducted and then murdered by a 35-year-old man, a member of his Borough Park community. It was Leiby’s first day walking home from school alone. His mom had given him careful directions and was awaiting his arrival. Last week, New York Magazine published a heart-breaking, minute-by-minute reconstruction of the fateful walk home from school.
For New York parents, the crowded city can be at once a protector and a threat to their children, and the walk to school exemplifies both the challenges and successes of fostering independence at a young age. Parent groups form to discuss how not to be a “helicopter parent,” how to give children a taste of freedom without putting them in overt danger–just as Leiby Klezty’s mother must have planned to do when she taught him how to walk home from camp alone.
The abduction-murder of a child can shake even the most independent-minded parent. Debbie Heiser, a Kew Gardens mom, felt the threat in her gut, but she, like many city parents already finds herself worrying more about everyday perils like speeding cars and treacherous buses.
For her part, Heiser choreographed a semi-independent walk to the school bus for her two sons, Liam, 7, and Aidan, 6. In this video, she and her sons walk the distance from their apartment to the bus stop, looking out for moving vehicles, red lights, and strangers.