Flora Pauling couldn’t stop thinking about the 5-year-old girl abudcted from Bryant Elementary School earlier this month.
It didn’t help that her 29-year-old daughter also kept reminding her of the incident and nudging her to do something. “She wore me out,” Pauling said.
So, Pauling, a Democratic state committee woman from the 34th ward, started making calls. She reached out to friends, female city council people, everyone she could think of and asked them to come out for a vigil on Saturday at 2 p.m. outside Bryant Elementary at 60th Street and Cedar Avenue. A friend of hers called the upcoming gathering a “flash mob for old people.”
“I kept hearing all this frustration,” Pauling said. “When I said, ‘We need to to go to the streets,’ they said, ‘Let’s go.’”
An unauthorized woman dressed in Muslim garb signed the little girl out of William Cullen Bryant Elementary School on the morning of Jan. 14. Early the next morning, a passerby found the child at an Upper Darby athletic field. She was distraught and only partially clothed. Police didn’t specify the type of trauma she endured because of her age. A $30,000 reward has been posted for information leading to an arrest.
“I felt that as a city, if we could come out for other people...(and) can’t come out for one of our own, then there’s something wrong,” Pauling told me. “She was a 5-year-old innocent baby. It could happen to any child. I’m upset with the school district. I’m upset with a whole lot of things.”
Organizers plan to pass out white ribbons. People also will be bringing teddy bears. No speakers are scheduled. The hope is that concerned citizens will just show up and bear witness as a show of solidarity with the little girl and her family. Everyone will be asked to hold hands for 60 seconds of silence.
“I believe they’re coming out - young women. Old women,” Pauling said. “Everybody has given me a great response. (They say) thank you for doing this. The response has been overwhelming.”
Understandably so. It could have happened to any child. Each time I see the video of that precious baby being led out of her school the way she was, it’s like a stab in the heart. She was so trusting. An innocent.
“She was taken from her safety zone with people she thought she could trust and put in the hands of a horrible - I can’t even describe what’s going through my head,” Pauling said, her voice catching.
On Saturday, at least, she won't have to explain. Everyone who shows up at the vigil will be feeling the same way.