Who remembers the Chowchilla kidnapping back in the 70s? Apparently the judge, prosecutors and investigators who worked on the case support release of the kidnappers on parole. When I first read the article about it a few weeks ago I thought, are they crazy? Those three guys kidnapped a bus full of children and buried them alive in a rock quarry. They are not only heartless and cruel but they struck fear in children all over California.
I was 10 years old when the kidnapping happened. I remember the night the children were found. We were having dinner at the home of our family friends, “Lisa and Lynda’s” I used to say because Lisa and Lynda were my best friends. All us kids were watching TV when the news broke. At first it was just boring news. We heard strange and disturbing sounding words like Chowchilla and kidnapping. But then we heard words we recognized like children, school bus and Livermore and suddenly the news wasn’t so boring. The news was scary and it was telling us that kidnappers were loose in Livermore.
Since it was the middle of July my first concern was obvious: What were these kids doing on a school bus in the middle of summer vacation? Lisa suggested that perhaps the Chowchilla kids were going to summer school and she confirmed this possibility by pointing out that she and her sister Lynda rode a school bus to summer camp. I silently thanked God that my mother did not send us to summer camp and 35 years later I still wonder if Lisa and Lynda got on the summer camp bus the next day. I know I sure as hell wouldn’t.
The rock quarry the children were found in was in Livermore less than a mile from our house. On warm summer nights when I had my bedroom window open I could hear the trucks and machinery and the sounds of rocks dumping at the quarry. That night when we got home from Lisa and Lynda’s my dad walked through our dark house, turning on all the lights and peaking in our bedrooms. Even as a kid I knew the possibility of kidnappers hiding in our house was slim but the fact that my father double checked still feels comforting today. And for the rest of that Livermore summer I kept my bedroom window sealed shut.