Having a child kidnapped from your home is a parent’s worst nightmare. It’s a nightmare Ed Smart knows all too well as he lived through it 16 years ago when his 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth was taken at knifepoint from his Salt Lake City home.
Smart is now an advocate for tracking down and rescuing missing children.
As the minutes turn to hours, and the hours turn to days, local police and federal investigators continue to leave no stone unturned in the search for 13-year-old Hania Aguilar. But as time slowly passes, with no new leads, it’s hope that struggles to stay strong.
“I think it’s critical.” Smart said of maintaining faith. “When Elizabeth went missing, I mean, we felt that she was out there and we felt that we needed the engagement of the community in order to find her.”
Elizabeth was found nine months later and 18 miles away from where she was taken. But, other families are not as lucky. Now Smart lobbies to Congress for tougher laws protecting children from predators.
“I think that its horrendous. For any parent to lose their child, you know, it’s the last thing that you want to have happen, and trying to recover them is very difficult,” Smart said.
Just last year, the FBI’s National Crime Information Center’s missing persons files contained more than 32,000 records for children under the age of 18. Well aware of the numbers and the need, The Elizabeth Smart Foundation is now a part of the fight bringing hope and hopefully and end to the victimization of all children.
“One person can’t do it alone. All of us together can make a huge difference in helping find Hania,” Smart said.
But as a family continues to search for answers, it’s this advice that helped Smart and his family cling to hope while Elizabeth was still missing:
“Really the best advice was to keep Elizabeth’s picture out there. Work in the community on children’s issues. Try to find any vehicle to keep her picture out there,” Smart said. “Our prayers certainly with the Aguilar family, and we pray and hope that things will come to a quick close for them in a very good way.”
As for Elizabeth, she continues to tell her story across the country and continues to educate adults and children about violent and sexual crimes. She recently gave birth to her third child.