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Let us never forget those taken away

Published Sep. 29, 2005

It was blistering hot outside, one of those west Citrus scorchers were there isn't enough breeze to wave even the grass in the wetlands and only the already crazed were venturing outside for anything other than the absolutely necessary.

But I had promised myself I would do something, and, heat or not, I ventured to the tiny cemetery just south of the Crystal River airport.

Memories of my first visit there 18 years ago came back quickly, and I walked directly to the grave I have only seen a few times since.

There, in a photograph protected by There, in a photograph protected by a plastic shield, smiles a forever young Elana Goldstein, looking into a future that, tragically as it turned out, didn't exist.

I was at Elana's funeral that chilly December day in 1981, a few days after her family surrendered hope of her surviving two gunshot wounds suffered as she walked to her Quail Hollow Pines home from her school bus stop.

I remember looking anxiously around for photographer Cherie Diez, who had ridden from the Baptist Church in south Pasco where the first part of the funeral had taken place. Diez had taken so much to heart our decision not to interfere with the family's grief and moved so far away that I couldn't see either her or her long-lens camera.

The Goldsteins, wanting every possible bit of publicity in what turned out to be a vain hope that their daughter's killer would be brought to justice, had been extremely cooperative and kind to me and other reporters.

The longest walk I have taken in 32 years of journalism was the one I took the night of Dec. 5 down a hallway of University Community Hospital in Tampa. I fully expected two parents, distraught with fatigue and grief and anger, to lash out at the first available target _ me _ and knew in advance that I couldn't blame them if they did.

But, instead, they talked with me, in shifts and into the early morning hours about their daughter and about the evil that had come, from nowhere, into their lives.

Now all these years later, when I see Marjorie Goldstein, I see the same pain and sadness in her eyes that I saw that night, a look that doesn't appear in photos of her taken before then and a look that probably will never go away.

Those who read this column regularly know that I write every December about Elana and other children and young adults whose murders in this area are as yet unsolved. Convinced that a rapist who died years later in prison was responsible for Elana's murder, authorities now consider the case closed.

And so do the Goldsteins, except for forever nagging questions about why it happened and what her final moments were like.

Sadly, the families of other youngsters murdered in the intervening 18 years don't have even as much of an answer as the Goldsteins do. They sit, as do the rest of us, terrified at the forever escalating spiral of violence that is consuming our society and their hearts, and wonder where _ or if _ it will all end.

Elana's mother is Baptist, her father Jewish. At her graveside that day her uncles donned yarmulkes as one of them, in Hebrew punctuated by sobs, said Kadish, the Hebrew prayer for the dead, before family members each picked up a handful of the sandy Crystal River soil and spread it on her coffin.

I go to her grave every couple of years to remember what I wish we, as a society, could learn. Murder isn't the act of an instant, the kind that forever disappears with the moment that bred it.

It is an ongoing offense for every year that the dead person remains gone and every year that loved ones suffer their loss.

The 103rd Psalm, read earlier that day at the Baptist Church, says a man's days, "are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

"For the Wind passeth over it, and it is gone."

That may be true of Elana's days, but not of her memory.

As I left the grave last week I stopped to pick up a stone and, in keeping with another Jewish tradition, left it on her headstone as a memento of my visit.

I don't know if Bob and Marjorie ever see the stones I have left.

I hope they do.