I am stunned. Young Shawn Hornbeck has been returned to the safety and love of his family for less than a week, and the Oprah show already him and his parents, as well as the Ownby parents, in a show to air this afternoon. Dear Lord. I shouldn’t be, but am very much surprised. I am also struggling with a wealth of conflicting thoughts.
I have no doubt that the parents of both boys have a deep-seated need to ensure their stories are told correctly. God knows, the sensationalism our society craves will invent it for them, if they don’t. Bill O’Reilly callously passed heinous judgment against young Shawn in the first few hours after his shocking discovery and return. In O’Reilly’s mind, Shawn surely “enjoyed” his time with Devlin; otherwise, he would have escaped when he had the chance, and apparently did several times. I will never be able to set aside his unconscienable words polluting the airwaves without one atom of evidence in support, and tons to the contrary.
Oprah will also undoubtedly treat this subject and every guest with respect and professionalism and, in turn, provide information that every family in American and beyond will find high value in. If nothing else, Oprah has a solid reputation for compassion. It has served her well and made her an absolute fortune.
But I also know some of the worst possible questions that could ever be posed to an obviously terrorized and traumatized Shawn Hornbeck will be asked: “Did you ever try to escape?” “Did you ever try and contact your family?” Inquiring minds want the details. And, ironically, the preshow info on Oprah.com suggests Dr. Clint Van Zandt (the FBI’s chief profiler and head of the Behavioral Science unit for 25 years) (he accurately profiled Oklahoma City Federal Building Bomber Timothy McVeigh on the day of that bombing) will explain why we should not ask “Why” and encourage us all to give these children time alone to heal, to create new memories.
Do you think?
As I said, I’ve no doubt these familes are trying to protect the accuracy of their stories. I further believe deeply that it is preeminently important to these families to do whatever they can to prevent, as much as they can, this nightmare from happening to anyone else. I’d be willing to bet just about anything that both Shawn and Ben feel exactly the same.But what really troubles me to the core is twofold: My personal desire for these boys to be stridently protected from any further trauma and allowed to heal as easily and deeply that is possible; and my personal desire to protect the legal process already challenged by the notoriety of this matter.All of this reminds me of the media-frenzied aftermath of Elizabeth Smart’s return. Her parents wrote a book about their own nightmare and received tons upon tons of hateful criticism, inclusive of being blamed for trying to capitalize on their daughter’s terror. There was at least one made-for-TV movie about the Elizabeth Smart case that was done without any permission from the family, which the family controlled another story that also became a movie. The Smart family was hounded for weeks by the media.
I’ve often wondered if Smart’s father, who stated often he didn’t care what people thought about him, was genius at having the guns aimed at him, instead of his daughter, who also didn’t try to escape her captors. And by the criticism aimed so strongly at him, we Sensationalism Junkies found them to be less than the perfect family we thought them to be initially and soon wiped the Smarts from our dashboards. At last Mr. Smart achieved what I think was his ultimate motivation: We left them alone.
The Hornbecks are in for a difficult and painfull lesson, I’m afraid.