The Off Chance

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

In days past, as I was sitting in the darkened movie theater, I watched and listened as the screen filled with an avalanche of popped corn with its signature popping sound. Then the sound of tinkling ice came as the cubes filled a glass. Soda loudly effervesced as it poured over the ice. Images not so subtly urging me to visit the refreshment stand are as old as movies themselves. These messages are easily dismissed as being the ever present nuisance I must sit through before the film begins.

It was what followed the advertisements that got me thinking: A picture of the theater with its exits along with this voiceover, In the unlikely event of an emergency…Aren’t all emergencies unlikely events?

Unlikely event? Given our population, certainly! Stephen King wrote, There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst. Ann Landers wrote, It is not what you do for your children but what you taught them to do for themselves. A former teaching peer often spoke of prior planning in formulating strong lessons. Planning does not guarantee success. Planning does develop a sense of confidence.

Before a hurricane season several years, my wife and I attended an emergency preparedness meeting at our local high school. We listened to town officials talk about power outages and local flooding potential. As we left the meeting, we were given a bright red backpack, our go bag courtesy of the American Red Cross. It included the Town’s Resident Guide to Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness, lists of essentials for families, supply suggestions for our car, for our formulation of an evacuation plan, for anything and everything aligned with our safety.

According to the FBI, in 2016 there were 465,676 entries concerning missing children in the Bureau’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC); in 2017, there were 464,324 entries. Doing the math, on average, there are about 1,270 or more entries per day concerning missing children in our country. In 2017, our population was 325.7 million people. I can do the math. The total entries for missing children reflect .1% of our population in these years. Doing research on the issue of child abductions, I come across statements on the net from people out there who claim groups such as ours, along with the media, overplay the frequency of child abductions, of school shootings, emphasizing fear over reality. If you are only into numbers, then, yes, that number speaks to your argument. However, the impact upon the missing child, the child’s immediate family, the child’s extended family, the friends, classmates, and the community becomes multiplied into a significant value that cannot be denied. The event, singular though it may be, has a rippling effect that can rock many groups.

At the Foundation, we urge informing and preparing your child for whatever emergency life may throw their way. They need their own go bag. We urge you to review in as an engaging manner as possible the following points:

Practice performing a formal introduction with your child. Give your child a strong idea of who a stranger is. Advise your child never to go anywhere with a stranger. Let your child know a stranger may be lying to them. Tell your child never to take a gift from a stranger. Teach your child to use the Buddy System and always go somewhere with a friend. Create a Secret Word with your child that must be used to identify someone who is sent by you with any message or suggestion to go with them. Insure your child can use 9-1-1 properly and easily. Play observation games to heighten your child’s awareness skills.

Our lives are more complicated today than ever before. At the Foundation, we hope our suggestions do not insult nor overwhelm you.

There is an old saying, Fool me once, shame on me. To be fooled by a dangerous stranger, by a predator just once, is truly more than enough.

Be safe.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Amazing Fantasy #15

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

In 1967 The Troggs sang, I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes. In 1969 BJ Thomas sang he was Hooked on a feeling. In 1976, the group Boston’s megahit was titled More than a feeling. In each case the lyrics acknowledged something rising from deep inside the human body, an almost primitive something sending signals from somewhere other than our brains.

Predating these recordings, a comic book, Amazing Fantasy #15 went on sale in August 1962. It introduced us to a new breed of superhero. Endowed with incredible strength and a hyper sensitivity to danger, Peter Parker, aka Spiderman, leapt into publication and history from the minds of writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko.
Spiderman, through the bite of a radioactive spider, was able to foresee impending danger through his newly developed tingling spider sense. Spidey-sense became part of the language of comic book fans. Did Lee and Ditko create this early warning system or did they just accentuate what they already knew about humanity’s instinct for self-preservation?
When do/did you experience butterflies in your stomach? The first recorded use of this expression was in 1908! In various articles written about the biology of our gut and the sensations it can produce authors refer to the gut as our second brain! From my inquiry into this phenomenon I found some quotes from anonymous sources that give parents, guardians, and teachers reasons to pause, reflect and maybe engage our children or wards in conversation.

Always trust your gut

It knows what your head hasn’t figured out yet

Our gut feelings never lie the way people do

Give yourself permission to immediately walk away from anything that gives you bad vibes

There is no need to explain or make sense of it. Just trust the little voice when it’s telling you to do so
Just how do we engage our kids in talking about this idea of instinctual response to a situation? Cats and dogs provide talking points about visceral responses to stimuli. We have all seen and heard a cat telling us it is not happy. The telltale arched back, the baring of the teeth, the guttural hiss, hair standing up on its back all alert us to an animal that is instinctually responding to an interior alarm system. Dogs pull back their lips, increase saliva production, growl, bark, have back hair stand up and become very territorial.

 
What about us humans? Chemical changes in our gut produce the fluttering effect of butterflies. We can all recall instances when this occurred: performing on stage in front of a group; looking down from a great height; asking a special someone for a first date; sitting for an exam; going to the doctor’s office; and so forth. On 13 September 2005 Julia Layton, for How Stuff Works.com, wrote How Fear Works. She noted the following changes that can occur in our bodies as over 30 hormones course through our bodies: heart rate and blood pressure increase, pupils in the eye dilate to take in as much light as possible, veins in skin constrict to send more blood to major muscle groups (responsible for the “chill” sometimes associated with fear — less blood in the skin to keep it warm), blood-glucose level increases, muscles tense up, energized by adrenaline and glucose (responsible for goose bumps — when tiny muscles attached to each hair on surface of skin tense up, the hairs are forced upright, pulling skin with them), smooth muscle relaxes in order to allow more oxygen into the lungs, nonessential systems (like digestion and immune system) shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions, trouble focusing on small tasks (brain is directed to focus only on big picture in order to determine where threat is coming from). This is all background for any discussion you have with your children.

 
I would ask a child to describe how they feel when they get butterflies. I would ask them to think back to the moments before they felt them.

 
I would also involve them in a discussion using universally known tales about children meeting strangers: Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White.

 
Have your children act out the story of Red Riding Hood for you. If they stumble, go ahead and take over the retelling; be outrageous. Overdo every part of it. Ask your child to describe the face of a wolf. Ask your child how Red would allow a wolf to have a conversation with her, why she would walk through the forest with the Wolf by her side. What was she thinking? Shouldn’t she have sensed something was wrong? Really emphasize the part of Red’s encounter with the Wolf in Grandma’s house: What big eyes you have! What big teeth you have! Ask your child, what do you think Red feels at that moment? How can Red not recognize the Wolf from having met him just a little while ago? Ask if Red is feeling something in her gut? Perhaps use the following expression: Our gut feelings never tell lies the way people do.

 
Snow White’s meeting with the Evil Queen in disguise as the old hag is truly a wonderful teaching moment for anyone concerned with stranger safety awareness. Snow White not only stops and talks with the hag/stranger but accepts an apple from her. Didn’t Snow White’s parents ever talk to her about NOT taking anything from a stranger? Snow White should give herself permission to immediately walk away from anything that gives her bad vibes. There is no need to explain or make sense of it. She should just trust the little voice when it’s telling her to do so.

 
The stories from our past, fairy tales, even ones about superheroes, give us opportunities for teachable moments about stranger safety awareness. It is too bad that some characters ignore their own Spidey Senses. Although the stories come with happy endings, our kids may get only one chance to respond to the feelings of discomfit in their guts. The fluttery feeling of butterflies can be used to reinforce one of the great tenets the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation has stressed but in a different way. Butterflies fly away at a moment’s notice. Children should also fly away, RUN away as fast as possible at a moment’s notice. The butterfly sensation is telling us something about the world around us: it knows what your head hasn’t figured out yet. Let’s make our kids as safe as we can. Let’s make an amazing fantasy a real world occurrence.

 

Be Safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

 

See you in the funny pages!

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

 I am of an age that my first reading lessons involved the funnies or comics in various New York City daily newspapers. My mother would sit me at the kitchen table and go panel by panel through various strips pointing to and sounding out the words scripted in the balloons floating above the characters heads. Sunday’s edition was especially awaited because it was printed larger and was in glorious color. To this day I still read the funnies. With time and, ahem, maturity, there are fewer that I follow. These still bring chuckles, provide agonizing groans and surprise with poignancy.

I have been asked where I get the ideas for my essays. They come from so many different sources. A well- turned phrase in a novel, an editorial, a conversation, a reflection, a photo, a comic strip. On Thursday, May 30th, I was taken by the Wizard of Id strip. It was a three panel strip that had only one drawn character, the Wizard. If you didn’t see it, I’ll describe it for you: The Wizard is walking along a street. He is passing a sewer or storm drain. A balloon is floating above the sewer with its attached string leading down to the sewer grate. The Wizard produces his magic wand, points, touches the balloon. Zap! The balloon is destroyed. In the last panel he says, Not in my neighborhood, Chuckles!

This set off various threads of thought in my mind. My mind filled with many recollections: to Stephen King’s It; to the incredibly nasty, evil Pennywise feeding on the fears of children; to King linking the worst desires of this frightening villain to where he lives in the sewers; to Neighborhood Watch signs I see posted throughout American locales; to the See something. Say something! Campaign publicized on TV.

We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause American philosopher William James said. Count the Wizard as a good, good man. Sets a great example, he does. Mason and Marc Mastroianni, the team responsible for the current run of the comic strip, deserve our thanks for making such a brilliantly succinct point about what evil still lurks out there in the world. Additionally, you can check out the recent PBS Frontline documentary from May 28, 2019, Sex Trafficking in America. It is not an easy watch.

In a beautifully tender essay in the New York Times, Sunday June 2, 2019 Amber Scorah wrote about loss. The essay concerned her coming to grips with the unexpected death of her 4 year old son at a day care center. She wrote the child was a means of capturing immortality …I would die first and that made him immortal for me. Further, I will never know who my child would have been, but I know his love.

All this leads me again to the reason our foundation exists, the loss of a child through violence. We are diminished as John Donne would say. That bell is tolling to ask us to remember and to discover a connection between ourselves and those who surround us with their love in this time of loss.

As John Lennon wrote, There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. No one you can save that can’t be saved. It’s easy. Would that it would be easy! Here’s to the ongoing task of keeping our children safe in this day and age. It can be done. It isn’t a game. Save one child then another. Surely worth doing no matter the effort! See you around the neighborhood!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Wish you were here!

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Luddite : noun, a person opposed to new technology or ways of working.

Lurker:  noun, a person who lurks, in particular a user of an Internet message board or chat room who does not participate; an observer.

In terms of fashion or technology, my family claims I am woefully behind the times in both areas. They joke I purchased a leisure suit on the last day it was in style. Similarly, they point out how I refused for years to use a cell phone. I hated (and still hate) the ability and/or need for anyone to attain instantaneous contact with another person at any given moment. Over time, I begrudgingly accepted my conversion to the utility of messaging.

I confess that former Luddites can and do regress. It’s like a flare up of a dormant disease. I know it’s 2019. Adapt or face the consequences. Yet I find comfort in my belief that there is something so incredible, so undeniably creative about putting pen in hand and pen to paper, structuring your thoughts to reach out and communicate, connect to another in so reflective and personal a manner. The written word! The letter! The postcard! The POSTCARD?

When was the last time you sent or received a postcard from a relative or friend? Remember the frequent message inscribed on them? Wish you were here.

My wife has shown me the visual postcards she scrolls through on her Facebook page. I read in my mind their electronic inscriptions: Look here. See me. Some draw smiles. Others make me shake my head in disbelief. Since I offer no comments, I realize I am a lurker.

My wife has shared beautiful postings celebrating life: its love, humor, tenderness, longing, accomplishments. I have viewed posts of families celebrating the passages we all wish to commemorate. Look, there’s the newborn, the toddler, the first day of school. There’s someone with their BFF, at their prom, their high school graduation, all grown up with their parents and grandparents. They all seem to say to me, Don’t you wish you were here? How plaintive these moments in time must seem to the families such as the Brucias.

It is ironic that the first platform for Facebook (available only to students at Harvard University) debuted on February 4, 2004, three days after Carlie’s abduction. Her social media presence will always be missing.

February 1, 2019 is the fifteenth anniversary of Carlie’s passing. Wish you were here, Carlie.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

 

Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week Coming Up

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Next week kicks off Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week in New York State. The calendar is packed with live presentations, the website has been humming with downloads of the free curriculum and the foundation is buzzing with excitement for the broadcast of PIX11’s broadcast of Tamsen Fadal’s Changemakers, highlighting the foundation’s work regarding stranger safety.

Each day next week, we will be dropping a blog about a different stranger safety awareness tip to help open the discussion with your children about the dangers strangers may pose. We stress the importance of never going anywhere with a stranger – an all too common theme on the nightly news as attempted abductions seems to happen at an increased rate as of late. Please check in with http://www.rosebrucia.org over the next week and pass along our blogs and lessons to your local PTA organizations and elementary school principals.

In a world that seems to be a little short on kindness, we like to remind children that you may talk politely with strangers, but you must never go with a stranger. Anywhere. Ever.

Be Safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

 

Make it so!

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Just the other day, September 18th, Matt and I presented two sessions to students an elementary school on Long Island. In the first session, kindergarteners, first graders and second graders in attendance, we spoke of issues concerning personal space and the need to be aware of just who the people you are near to are. Our second session, third graders, fourth and fifth graders, dealt with internet safety.

That evening, I listened to a news item concerning an internet sting operation that New Jersey police had successfully enacted wherein twenty-four, TWENTY-FOUR, potential child predators were apprehended. Today in the Long Island daily, Newsday, police captured a recently released violent offender who had wantonly murdered a coed in Ames, Iowa. According to the article, the alleged predator had spoken about how he wished to “rape and murder a woman.” Previously the similar murder of Mollie Tibbetts had played across the airways, print and social media.

Matt has told me often of comments he has received from other child advocates that our mission was too narrow; that we had to address the issue of predators being familiar to their victims. Others have said we were alarmists in promoting fear of strangers in parents and thereby children. We are not burying our heads in the sand concerning the overwhelming issue of child abduction by persons known by the children. We are responding yesterday, today and tomorrow to what so achingly ravaged a family, the Brucia family. If the news items above don’t speak to the legitimacy of our mission, I ask the doubters to look again.

I leave you with this:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide.  As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.  Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.  The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make”?  The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”.

THAT ONE! As Jean Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise, echoing the commands of his predecessors in the British navy, would say to his crew, MAKE IT SO!

Be safe! Let all of us make it so!

 

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Don’t Tell Your Mother

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

My college aged granddaughter and her friends love horror/thriller movies. The scarier the better, she tells me. These films, according to psychologists, can provide catharsis of suppressed aggression, an adrenalin rush, pure excitement, curiosity, intense emotions, and dispositional alignment, a concept in which the viewer enjoys the violence visited on those the viewer feel deserve it. Wow! As a teenager I loved the old school Universal Studios monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man. I am not a big fan of the genre, but will sit through one, waiting to be scared, then being surprised when I am startled. As I have aged, the appeal of horror films has greatly diminished.

Do you like scary movies? Recognize the quote? Horror film buffs will remember it as the opening of the movie, Scream. The phone rings and Drew Barrymore picks it up and hears that line. In another thriller, When a Stranger Calls, a young woman answers the phone and hears, Have you checked the children?

When I started writing this blog, those two lines of dialogue immediately came to my mind. Phone calls in both films introduce the dread that is about to impose itself upon the actors who answered. Reread those lines of dialogue, so effectively spooky, so ominous! In the former instance, a stranger implies you are about to participate in your own existential nightmare; in the latter, a nightmare beyond belief has already unfolded.

The first principle of stranger safety awareness that Matt and I present to school assemblies is the concept of personal space. We ask student volunteers to demonstrate wordlessly what this idea means to them. We attempt for a child to be able to easily describe the space around them using extended arms to make visible to all the sacred area that no one may enter without the child’s permission. We ask the children to name people they would allow into their personal space. We believe it is an effective teaching method. Any story, any fairy tale that uses a ruse by a stranger to get near a child is exploited by us.

Read the newspapers and you will understand why I get apprehensive that times have changed so quickly that we have to up our game. The instant communication of today amazes and dismays me. Letter writing seems so quaint and archaic. Texts with emojis and phonetic abbreviations glut messages from those younger than I. Voicemail, mostly unwanted and unsolicited, fills answering machines no matter that your number is on a state no call list!

Here’s a sample of what I mean. This headline appeared in Newsday, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The article below the banner filled half a page.

Voicemail left for girl helps nab sex predator

 Astute mom, LI police lead to capture in Calif.

How’s that for sending a shiver down your spine? The registered sex offender who has done this phone tag before had made a call that was answered by an 11 year-old girl. Think of the odds of dialing THAT number! The apprehended predator said he was calling random numbers and the girl’s voice sounded young. He had warned the 11 year-old not to tell her parents. The mother luckily overheard part of the voicemail and took the phone away from her daughter. She then purchased a phone app she used to unblock the predator’s phone numbers.

The concept of personal space must be updated. How much more personal is the space when a complete stranger can be invited into it with a simple hello? The whispered message of a predator does not easily recede from the mind. The sex offender was arrested through the teamwork of Long Island’s Garden City Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on felony charges of making criminal threats, attempted child molestation and annoying or molesting a minor.

Many years ago a fellow teacher told me he was giving up all his coaching duties. Why, I asked. When the kids were younger, he said, I could actually believe that I didn’t need to be there 24/7. Trust me, he added, as the kids age you have got to be there more than ever.

Parent involvement matters. Who knows what message might hook your child when a strange message is heard. I think the following partial list of expressions that might be heard forms the basis for a good conversation with your children concerning messages from unknown sources. You can call them warning sounds, bells, or whistles. Tell your children that should they hear any of these statements in a message, they must immediately tell you. You must tell the police. Use any, some, all of these statements or one you believe focuses your child’s mind on the danger lurking on unsolicited calls.

  • I’m here for you.
  • You’re so funny.
  • You have great ideas.
  • I would love to spend time with you.
  • You seem very smart for someone your age.
  • You are so impressive. Will you show me how you did that?
  • If I hurt your feelings, will you forgive me?
  • We have a lot in common.
  • I really think we should meet.
  • You’re really cute. How about sending me your picture?
  • I believe in you.
  • I’m proud of you.
  • Go for it! Don’t let anybody hold you back!
  • I really, really like you.
  • Are your parents as clueless as mine were?
  • What we have may be special. How about we keep it just between you and me?
  • I love you.

 

Do you like scary movies? Have you checked the children? These classic movie lines thrill and chill, for sure. Now, if we add a real life predator’s plea, Don’t tell your mother, how much fear does that instill?

Stephen King had one of his characters realize Grownups are the real monsters!

Being safe takes time, effort, patience and vigilance. You’ve got to be there more than ever. What a world!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Warning: Danger, Will Robinson!

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Some of us may be old enough to remember the Robot alerting the young Will Robinson to the peril of the week on Lost in Space. Such dramatic warnings are not evident in our everyday life. We are, however, silently blasted by alerts of varying alarm. Electrical devices and appliances all have warnings attached. Our medicines all carry warnings lest litigation is pursued. Leave your home and you might see Beware of Dog signs affixed to fences or gates. Get into your car and you see those lovely yellow signs alerting you to pedestrian crossings, curves in the roadway, numerous situations where caution is urged. Signs in red speak to truly hazardous possibilities on the street. Enter a building and caution is urged because of slippery floors. Signs on doors identify restricted areas. It’s amazing that Stan Berenstain’s Little Bear character was able to say I went to town, not, I’m never going anywhere ever again!

Recently my wife and I went out west and toured through Arizona and Utah, experiencing the wonders of the US National Parks at the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion. The park rangers hand out cards that urge you to

  • Please follow directions from park rangers – it will be for your safety.

 

    • Always remember that wildlife is just that – wild. If an animal feels cornered or trapped, it will protect itself.
  • If you’re heading off for a walk tell a family member of your timings and location.
  • If you are threatened by wildlife – stay calm; keep eye contact; back away; and do not run.

 

These safety alerts further state: Sometimes the best relationship is a long-distance relationship offering suggestions as to appropriate distances to stay from the animal inhabitants of the parks. There are no yellow or red signs to remind you.

For those of you who read our blogs and have seen our school presentations, the melding of these park ranger statements with our stranger safety message is close to 100%. Almost all the above (we, of course, urge any child in a situation with an aggressive or threatening stranger to RUN) can be adapted to our teaching points. Our goal is to empower a child in that particular, singular event when the child finds himself or herself ALONE and feels threatened. We want every child to be able to recall words or phrases that flash yellow warning lights in their brains or red flashing lights accompanied with siren sounds that prompt their bodies’ flight or fight response to the stress of a given situation.

Good teaching never ends. There are always teachable moments. Here are a few to stress about stranger safety awareness.

  • No matter how harmless a person appears, you cannot predict what they will do.
  • If the person changes their behavior as they approach you or seem nervous, stay very far away.
  • Don’t be fooled by flattery.
  • Do not pose for any pictures with a stranger.
  • Never approach a stranger.
  • Give a stranger space.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.  These words of the Dalai Lama are timeless. Would that his message seep into the hearts and souls of those among us who do otherwise to children.

Be Safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Déjà Vu

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Taken from the French expression, literally meaning “already seen,” déjà vu is that eerie sense of “I’ve experienced this before.” This may occur from the current situation producing some clues that may subconsciously trigger retrieval of an earlier experience.

In 2004, Central Florida TV station Local 6 reported that investigators found 11-year old Carlie Brucia’s remains between 12:45 a.m. and 1 a.m. on Friday, February 5th outside a church a few miles from the car wash where she was taken.

“Our prayers on behalf of everybody here in Sarasota County go out to the family,” said Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill in a press conference, naming Joseph P. Smith, 37, as the suspect who was charged with the girl’s kidnapping and murder. Smith had been arrested at least 13 times in Florida since 1993, according to state records and convicted of drug possession and other charges. He was arrested in 1997 in Manatee County on kidnapping and false imprisonment charges, but was acquitted a year later.

Investigators found the body after negotiations with Smith, said the TV report. Earlier it had been said that Smith, believed to be the tattooed man in a mechanic’s shirt shown in the surveillance video leading Carlie away by the hand, had not been cooperating during police questioning.

At a nationally televised press conference shortly after 7 on Friday morning, sheriff’s authorities announced, “We have found Carlie and the person responsible for her murder is in custody.”

Forrest Carr, in his February 17, 2004 article, Covering Carlie: A News Director’s Perspective, said

  • Some critics believe the media exploited Carlie Brucia.
  • We needlessly frightened parents and children… leaving people with a distorted view of reality and a feeling that the world is scarier than it really is.
  • I would venture to guess that every mother in America had a conversation with her child about strangers. Every parent I know had such a conversation. Every teacher I know did the same.
  • They had the conversations because for one heart-rending week, not just the community but the entire world was reminded that monsters do walk amongst us, and that we need to be aware of that. Telling children about this is not an easy conversation to have. It frightens them. Though painful, it’s an inoculation against a reality of life that many parents have come to feel is necessary. It is necessary. (Emphasis mine).

 

On May 31, 2017 twelve year old Naomi Jones was reported missing from her home. Last known contact with the child was by a friend who had texted her at 12:21pm that day. Police theorized that Naomi probably died within 24-36 hours of her abduction. Her body was found by fishermen on June 5th. The Sheriff’s department noted Naomi may have been a possible target through social media.

Several years ago I wrote a short blog entitled There be monsters! I spoke of imaginary as well as real individuals who inflicted unspeakable harm to children and their families.

Pensacola, Florida is located in Escambia County. The county’s Sheriff’s office Chief Deputy, Chip Simmons announced that a convicted sex offender, in prison for 15 years for two counts of sexual assault and rape, released from prison 4 years ago, was arrested. Simmons said, “We have caught our MONSTER (emphasis mine). We have caught the killer that took Naomi’s life-a twelve year old girl who had her whole life in front of her.”

That word, MONSTER, describes so clearly the revulsion the rest of society holds for these killers of children. As Forrest Carr said, the painful conversation between parents/guardians and the children they raise is NECESSARY. Carr described the dialogue as an inoculation. I am sure we all recall how we winced as the needle with the preventative medicine neared our child’s arm. I suggest it is time to have another such important discussion with our children. Dr. Charles Kolenik noted that booster shots of reminding and refreshing the concepts of stranger safety help keep the original inoculation strong.

These cases of déjà vu we can do without.

As always, and especially now with the freedom of summer vacation upon us, Be Safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

On a Personal Note…

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

I can remember when Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time was published. I recall attempting to read and comprehend the work and gave up in frustration after my own brief time with it.

I recall sitting in classrooms where my eye would settle on the wall clock and note how gravity seemed to slow the upward movement of the minute hand from the half hour to the hour every day. I can still picture my students repeating their own studies of time in my class.

Ask a child who is anticipating some happy event in their life and a response about how time is dragging will be forthcoming. Ask an adult to reflect upon their life and the answer always involves a comment about the fleet passage of years.

Thirteen years seems, feels like a long time and yet something immediate. February 1, 2004 glides effortlessly between the timeline of the past and the immediacy of the present.

Two years doesn’t seem like a long time. It has been almost two years since my wife and I had visited the memorial garden at the Central Church of Christ on Proctor Road in Sarasota, Florida. You know it as the site where Carlie Brucia’s body was recovered. I am happy to say that the grounds of this garden are well maintained. The grass is mowed. The palm fronds are gathered and taken away. Netting has been placed over the stone bearing Carlie’s likeness and its adjacent pool. From the memorial plaques seen in front of the pool, you realize people still visit; Carlie’s story lives on.

Author N. Maria Kwami wrote, “but time soon passes. Even the deepest pain eventually looses its edge in the more vivid reality of the present; then, what once was unbearable becomes strangely familiar.  And after much familiarity, it assumes the insignificance of just another milestone, ever marking the journey to higher ground“.

In Love in the Time of the Cholera, Noble Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote of “people…turning into memories, mists from other days, until they were absorbed into oblivion“.

The bleakness of these words is a blow to our hearts. Heartbreak refutes the concept of oblivion, familiarity and insignificance.

There is nothing familiar or insignificant about the loss of a child. Our Foundation works today and tomorrow and the next day to prevent other families from suffering this same heartbreak.

Standing in front of the memorial, my eyes could not miss a sign that Carlie had not passed into mists or oblivion. Poignantly, a single white candle. It’s flame flickering near the base of its tall glass column, gives notice that February 1st, 2004  is remembered.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

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