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State News

Missing Children's Day A Somber Reality

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Some crying softly, others offering hugs of support, parents and relatives of missing and murdered children gathered in the Capitol Courtyard Monday to mark the 17th annual Missing Children’s Day.

It’s been 15 years and three days since third-grader Zachary Bernhardt vanished from his bed in Clearwater. Detectives are still baffled.

But Zachary’s cousin, Amandia Sharbono is confident Zach is coming back. She comes to Missing Children’s Day every year to rekindle the hope, even though it’s an emotional rollercoaster.

“You learn to deal with it, except days like today, his anniversary he went missing, his birthday, holidays. But daily life, you just learn to cope with it. Get up and keep going.”

Every Florida Children’s Day, Scott takes the short walk from his Capitol office to a brick courtyard filled with uniformed police and victims’ families. Every year, he offers condolence and encouragement.

“By working together we can continue to shine a light on crimes in our state that place the life of a child at risk. While we have made significant steps forward, the reality is that even one missing child is one too many.”

And each year, victims’ families march single file down an isle to collect a flower as the names of their missing or dead sons and daughters are announced. Many cry and some need to be steadied.

Monday was no different.

It’s extremely rare for a child to disappear without a trace. And not all abduction cases end in tragedy. In 2009, a non-custodial father in Denton, Texas, bound his disabled wife and kidnapped their toddler.