And despite the efforts by others - from the media to those posting fliers in the streets - ultimately, it appears it will be these two females who will be the sheroes of their own story, particularly the little girl. Scripture says, "And a little child shall lead them," but she led us to something else beyond amazement at her courage, clarity and determination.
Along with her mother, she has helped lead a revival in the meaning of "community" for a neighborhood whose edges and commitment to each other at times have frayed. Whereas some had become more comfortable with indifference, in taking little more than a casual interest in their first civic duty - watching out for their neighbors - this tragedy offered a refresher course in the power of unity and a shared sense of purpose.
I'll admit that since this case occurred, I've had difficulty sleeping. As more details became public, it was clear that a horrific act was visited upon a child and, as a husband and father of two daughters, it disturbed me, realizing the numbers of women and girls out there, dealing with similar circumstances.
But it bothered me almost as much to think that this could happen here.
I grew up and still live in the area where the little girl was abducted. Some faces have remained the same, but through the years different people, different personalities have joined the mix. The implicit trust I held as a child that my neighbors would look out for me when my parents were not present is no longer a universal one and, sadly, not always even expected among children now.
In the days and weeks since the abduction, I, like many, have wondered what type of people, what type of community would allow this to occur. The resolve of these two females - one younger, one older - and their inspiration demonstrated what type.
It's a community that rallied together, despite previously limited perspectives on faith or religion. It's filled with residents that saw that this child may not biologically have been their own, but felt a connection and renewed responsibility to lessen and prevent the hurt that she and her family endured. It's home to those who not only raised their voices for the girl and her family, but also to swiftly bring meaningful action in the operation of a neighborhood school long in need of attention. At last, I recognized my neighborhood again.
This is the place I know, a place that protects, supports and helps others. In many ways, this horrific incident removed the haze that hid those attributes.
These two females - one girl and one woman - have inspired others to do better by the people living around them, in this stretch of West Philadelphia and throughout Philadelphia. I only pray some other community doesn't require such a traumatic act to understand, embrace and cherish what we've been reawakened to do, especially as it concerns its most vulnerable neighbors.
I'm proud of my neighborhood, of this community that raised me, of those neighbors who dug into thin pockets to donate to a reward, to rally on behalf of Latifah and her daughter. But I'm most proud of these two females, and what they've given us in the midst of their quest for justice.
They renewed an expectation of community - and justice - for all.
Anthony Hardy Williams is state senator for the 8th District, where Bryant Elementary School is situated. Follow him on Twitter at @SenTonyWilliams. The Daily News is withholding the girl's name.