My wife and I were talking about him not long ago.  For each of us, his disappearance left an indelible mark.  Whenever there was a report of a missing child, we inevitably said, I wonder what happened to Etan Patz.

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Seeing this headline brought back the nightmare, and the hope for closure for the family, NYC basement searched for boy missing since 1979:

 A team of police officers and FBI agents began tearing apart a New York City basement Thursday as part of a decades-old investigation into the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, whose case made a generation of parents afraid to send their children out alone.

Etan vanished without a trace in 1979 after leaving his family’s Manhattan apartment for a short walk to catch a school bus. It was the first time his parents had let him go off to school alone.

The building being searched sits about a block from where the family lived, in the borough’s SoHo section, and is along the route that the boy would have taken on his walk to the bus stop.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said a forensic team would dig up a floor and search through the rubble for blood, clothing or human remains. The work is expected to take as many as five days.

Update 4-24-2012: Unfortunately, Etan dig comes up empty.