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'Nightmare' lives for too many kids

It was the Scooby Doo shorts that did me in. Hearing that a Ismall child had been abducted out of the safety of his own B.C.

It was the Scooby Doo shorts that did me in. Hearing that a

Ismall child had been abducted out of the safety of his own B.C. home was dreadful enough, but that oft-repeated description in the Amber Alert - that three-year-old Kienan Hebert was wearing Scooby Doo boxer shorts when he was last seen - was a detail that just hit like a punch to the gut.

It made Kienan a little bit more real, a little bit more like my own son and, like most parents across the province, I couldn't help but imagine - though I'm sure it comes nothing close to the reality - what it would have been like to have found his room empty that fateful morning.

The story gripped people in this province all week long, as we all hoped for a happy ending but braced for a more likely outcome - that he had been killed or, even worse, to never find a trace of him either way.

The topic was certainly the Number 1 discussion in my circle of friends. On Facebook, we posted and re-posted the Amber Alert, and talked about the horror his family must be feeling. While picking up my kids at daycare, their care provider and I stood on the steps and discussed the details of the case, both of us noting that we'd gone to bed each night thinking that maybe, just maybe, good news would come in the morning. At night, before falling asleep, I'd pester my husband with ridiculous questions he couldn't possibly answer: Where do you think he is? Do you think the police will find them? Why would someone do this? What would we ever do if this happened to us?

In the office lunch room, in the grocery store lineup, on the phone with friends, it was top of mind for me, and many, all week long.

And so it should have been - it was a horrible and hideous story. A child is whisked away in the dead of night, with no sign of him to be found; his location is unknown; details and rumours about the potential suspect in the case lead people to fear the worst.

It's like the darkest of dark fairy tales, come to life - literally, every parent's worst nightmare.

And yet, through it all, a little voice in the back of my head kept whispering "what about all the other children?"

Please, don't misunderstand: Kienan Hebert's abduction was a dreadful thing, wrong on every level. It warranted every second of coverage and public support that it received.

But, in truth, thousands of children every single day suffer in nightmares equally horrible, equally undeserved, equally nightmarish - but the public is largely silent to it.

Countless children experience physical, emotional and sexual abuse in their very own homes, for years on end - many of them end up on our city streets, panhandling or forced into prostitution to survive. In some places, children are bought and sold, exploited in the sex trade or as virtual slaves.

Child porn has been on the rise globally - arrests in cases involving both creation and distribution have occurred right here in B.C. several times in the last year.

Elsewhere, children die on the side of the roads, their mothers too malnourished from famine and poverty to be able to continue carrying them as they seek food and help; even here in Canada, thousands of children live below the poverty line, without sufficient food or money to go around.

War and civil conflict around the globe has cost children their families or, all too often, their own lives.

Like Kienan Hebert, these children have done nothing to bring on the tragedy in their lives; unlike Kienan Hebert, most of them are invisible to us, part of the overwhelming "big picture" that feels too large or too far away for any one of us to help.

As I cried on Sunday morning, filled with relief upon hearing the news that Kienan had been brought home, I couldn't help but wonder: What about all the others?

What if we stood on our neighbour's doorsteps and talked about the horror of a child's life in the Congo; if we sparked up conversations with the grocery store clerk about child exploitation in southeast Asia; if we Facebooked and Twittered about the plight of children living in poverty both here and elsewhere?

Our attention is riveted by the horror of a child abduction, and rightly so - though rare, it is intensely terrifying, leaving a wake of damage for the families involved.

But, if we have the capacity to rally so passionately for one family, I believe we have the capacity to do the same for families whose lives are marked not by a horrible and unexpected assault by a stranger, but by systemic failures in our global community that allows children to slip through the cracks into abuse, neglect, exploitation, poverty, famine and disease.

These issues are not too big to tackle, we simply need to decide that they are equally deserving of our attention, our support and our resources.

Christina Myers is a reporter with The Record's sister paper, the Burnaby NOW. She has two children, four and 15 months. Follow her at www.