The monsters are real

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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27 Responses

  1. Chrissy says:

    Very well said. Thank you for putting into words how many of us feel. I too grew up in that neighborhood. Though I am an adult now this horrific act has brought back those childhood fears and I’m sad that my child will grow up with these terrifying memories.

  2. Sarah Bianco says:

    I have a niece, two nephews, dad, step mother and my precious son that all live in that small city. I have been so sickened by this event. What is wrong with someone that would do that to a little girl. I think that this is very well written and tells us how it is and yet, how does a community get over it? Do we teach our children and grandchildren that if you don’t know someone, they are evil? There are so many wonderful people also. I’m saddened and all I can do is pray for this family and pray for my own. I’m sure that this little girl is in Heaven and trying hard to let her family know she’s fine there in the lap of God.

  3. Patty Fielding says:

    Well said, Brad. We still live in your childhood neighborhood and the climate is different, the children don’t run and play as freely as they once did. As we grow older, we realize how precious life is and how important it is to let those we love know it, every day. Thank you for your words, your hometown is in a state of collective grief.

  4. Barbara Watson says:

    I currently live one block north of where this happened. It was such a shock! This article was very well written and informative. My son had a talk with my grandson,6, about people. My grandson has never met a stranger. He talks to everyone and would go with anyone. I hope after their talk, that this has changed. When his daddy told him not to talk with strangers, even if they talk with him, he said,”I don’t want to hurt their feelings, Daddy”. How do you change a child’s innocence?

  5. Thanks for sharing! As a former journalist and a girl who grew up on Springfield’s southwest side… so much of this rings true for me as well.

  6. Beverly says:

    Thank you. Yes, we all have lived with monsters, real or imagined, and will continue to do so. For awhile we will be fearful of letting our children/grandchildren out of our sight then we will become complacent again and life will return to normal, whatever that is. I had a wonderful childhood and grew up with complacent parents but I’m not sure complacency has a place in our lives any more. It should be replaced with caution. My parents never taught me to always walk with a friend- never alone, to not talk to strangers, to be careful of vans in parking lots. and the list goes on of things they did not teach me but today our children must be cautioned and taught personal safety at a very young age. I don’t like these changes in our society but change we must.

  7. Maria says:

    I am Adam Walsh’s age and I grew up in Miami, Florida. You can bet that my first memory of a newspaper article was looking at an accompying picture of the body if water where his head was found. You can bet that as a Cuban girl in a conservative family I NEVER rode my bike around my neighbor without an adults eyeballs on me!

  8. Alishia says:

    Great writing and insight, Brad. As a former school employee, I think the number of children that Craig Wood came into contact with each day further compounds the grief. Hundreds of students present and students past are reeling from the time they had spent with him. The “How did this happen” ringing in the ears and minds of thousands, if not millions. Thank you for this insight from a boy who grew up in Hailey’s hometown.

  9. Cathy says:

    God bless this little angel and her family in this horrible time ….I told some of my loved ones to watch putting pictures of their beautiful daughters on facebook. No one knows who is looking and what will happen. It wasn’t a stranger it was a teacher….I can’t imagine why this happened know where your babies are….God bless everyone.

  10. We do always need to be aware. We do NOT need to be afraid. The monsters have always been there. We prepare.

    Well written.

  11. Kim Harris says:

    Well said. It has been a rough few days in our Springfield community. Everything you said hits home for me…as we age and have more responsibilities, we notice and feel more. And yes…the past few days I have spoke a little louder when I tell my kids I love them. Making sure we have eye contact when I say it. Thank you for these thoughts. I am glad I ran acrossed it.

  12. Tammy McGinnis says:

    I grew up in Miami and spent lots of weekends at my grand parents house in Hollywood just miles away from the store that Adam was taking from and will never forget that day. I moved to Spfld in 1988 it was a huge change for me and although I felt safer here I still remember those monsters that you speak of growing up in a bigger city. I have children of my own and my son can’t go 2 doors down w/o me outside watching him get there & he has to call me b4 he leaves. Little Hailey’s murderer’s home is less than 2 miles from my neighborhood. It’s an eerie feeling knowing he was that close. They are everywhere so we as parents and a community need to keep a watch out for our children. Thanks for this read and yes hug your children a little tighter each day & show them lots of love

  13. I grew up on the west side of springfield in a small neighborhood most called dogpatch not far from where this all happeded We played outside till way after dark and if it snowed and we knew we were not going to have school we would sometimes stay out way late We would have sleep overs and sleep outside There were a lot of kids in are small neighborhood we all stayed and played together We never worried about the monters we all felt safe I have kids of my own and gradbabies now and dont fill so safe now Never let your guard down Life’s just not the same as when we were kids

  14. Chrissy H says:

    Grew up on west side things seemed different then or maybe was just a kid. I now live about a block from where Hailey was taken know kids that she was around & feel for her. My daughter was assaulted by a so called family friend. Guess I am fortunate she is still with me as a adult now. but still see the trauma in her & heart breaks for all children in this. I don’t have words to express the feelings. I have to believe she is the angel for her family now from where she is. & they are remembering her laugh/smile to hold her close

  15. Sarah LInk says:

    The man was a coach and teacher’s aide, however he did not work at the school where Hailey went. He had no prior connection to her.

  16. K. Stephens says:

    Three of my four sons attended Westport Elem. Played in the park across the street. As a single Mom I always tried to be more aware of what they were doing..or where they were playing…I thank God every day for watching over them….and continuing to lead them as they are always aware of their children as they grow..and their parents are cautious and spend time with them .

  17. Dana says:

    Thank you for writing this….touched my heart.

  18. Lonnie Long says:

    My name is Lonnie and I also grew up on the west side just off scenic .When I was growing up the little girl missing was named Rose.They never found the monster but they found Rose.She had been killed and if I remember correctley it was by some lake or water.I still remember her today.She was sweet and quiet and always sported a smile.We miss you Rosie.

  19. Nadia says:

    I love your point of view on this. Very well said. I would like to also state that this tragedy has helped me to teach my daughter about people and strangers. It reminded me to always talk to her about how to protect herself. I started researching and found there are many places that offer self defense classes for young kids. They’re called anti bully and anti abduction classes. My 6 year old will be attending those a couple of times a year. I don’t agree that we have to fear in silence. We can prepare our children. It’s not a guarantee but I rather take my chances. She’ll be attending an 8 week class to teach her techniques and ways to be wise in an abduction. I won’t fear in silence. I will harness my fear and use it to do something productive and positive.
    God be with all those grieving.

  20. Sandy Montgomery says:

    I’m Rick Clawsons mom & live just outside of Springfield. Your reflections on Hailey Owens are so beautifully done. Every one of us, that are a mother felt as though we lost our own 10 year old child this week. I can’t put into words what it has done to this area as a whole emotionally. I posted pics from the candle light service in downtown Springfield this evening-thousands were there! Maybe Rick will share so others can see.
    Thank You for caring so much!

  21. Sue says:

    Very well written and said. I grew up in Chicago back when John Wayne Gacey was arrested and later we found out what he did to all those innocent little boys. I was just a little girl myself and he put the fear in me of what strangers can do. When I had girls of my own and I would talk to them about stranger danger, he was always on the back of my mind. It is so sad what happened to Hailey and I feel for her family and friends and the community. My prayers and thoughts go out to them.

  22. V Collier says:

    Its hard to teach your children about safety. Because not all “strangers” will be bad. At some point your child may get lost and will need to know which “stranger” to go to for help. I tell them its ok to talk to the workers in a store or how to recognize the customer service desk. How to find a mom with other children to go to. Kids must feel strength and courage in those situations when they need to ask for help. My prayers go with all the families of Springfield.

  23. Da Goddess says:

    Best advice ever.

    And it’s good to know the lessons you were taught have carried through to your adulthood and parenthood.

  24. While stranger danger truly does exist, parents must be cognizant of the potential inappropriate behavior from their circle of neighbors, friends and family. I know personally this is a genuine danger zone.

  1. December 30, 2014

    […] got as many eyes on it as two posts I published this year. That’s the nature of social media. The monsters are real was the story of Hailey Owens kidnapping and death in my hometown. Dear Coach Pinkel was an […]

  2. February 27, 2015

    […] week, police say a man named Craig Wood snatched a ten-year-old girl named Hailey Owens from a neighborhood street on the west side of Springfield, Missouri. Wood, a stranger to Owens, then allegedly shot her in the base of the skull, put her in a bag, and […]

  3. November 10, 2015

    […] The monsters are real: When a monster stole a little girl from my hometown […]

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