grievingIt’s a parent’s worst nightmare. There’s a sleeping baby in the back seat, and they just have to grab something from the house or a gas station. They leave the infant for a second, only to find their vehicle and child gone. The very idea brings a lump to my throat and settles a huge weight in the pit of my stomach. It’s the horrific experience of one Chinese father this week, and the outcome of his tragic story has sparked soul-searching across the nation.

The father, who owned supermarket in the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, needed to step into the store to turn on a stove. His two-year-old daughter was sleeping in the backseat of his SUV. He was worried that the store was freezing cold, and didn’t want to expose his little one to icy temperature. So he left his child in the car for just a minute while he ran in. When he came out, his car and child were gone.

The city of Changchun quickly responded to the man’s pleas for help. Family, friends and random citizens all joined in the hunt for the little girl. Hundreds of taxi cabs stopped taking fares and joined the search. News reports say that husbands even drove around with their nursing wives, so that the women could immediately feed the little girl if she was found hungry and crying.

Unfortunately, all of that community support and kind-heartedness could not deliver a happy outcome. Finally, the car thief came forward and admitted to the police that after finding the child in the back seat, he strangled her and dumped her body in the snow. Now, the community is left to mourn the child they all worked so hard to save.

The gut-wrenching story has created something of a firestorm in China, with citizens from around the country taking to the internet to question the country’s morals as a whole, and how such a brutal crime could take place. While some have blamed the father for leaving his child alone, the majority have considered this latest incident of violence against children as a signal for needed soul-searching among the country that’s working very hard to modernize. They want to be seen as an established, civilized nation.

Of course, the sad truth is that horrible people commit violent crimes no matter what nation you’re in. Every country on the globe has had similar tragedies. But that likely won’t do much to make the people of Changchun feel any better. They lost an innocent child this week to a vile act. It’s hard for anyone to accept that such evil exists in the world.

(Photo: jeremy spang/Shutterstock)