Twenty years ago, Walsh was a successful south Florida business. He and his wife owned a lovely home and had a beautiful six-year-old son named Adam. A trip to a Sears store at a local mall changed all that.
"I thought I had the American dream," said Walsh in Nashville today. "I lived in Hollywood, Fla., because I thought Miami, where my business was located, was too dangerous. Now I realize how nave I was, how little I knew about the lack of safety and preventive measures, things you do every day in the workplace."
Adam and his mother went to Sears and she allowed him to watch some older kids playing a video game while she went two aisles over to purchase a lamp. When she returned five minutes later, Adam was gone, removed from the store by an inexperienced, 17-year-old security guard who broke up a fight between the groups of boys playing the video game. A crying six-year-old, standing in the store parking lot, became easy prey for a serial pedophile who was lurking in the toy department. The Walshes would never see Adam again.
Much like the circumstances surrounding many industrial accidents, all it took was a brief moment of inattention for the lives of the Walsh family to be horribly changed.
Before Adam's body was found, and as they searched for their son and fought against bureaucratic red tape that kept local police departments from communicating with each other and the FBI from stepping in to help, the Walshes realized that they were the first family to launch a nationwide campaign to find a missing child. Even after their search ended so tragically, the Walshes remained involved in the cause of searching for missing and kidnapped children and created an organization to help parents find their missing children. They changed the way law enforcement agencies search for missing children. And Walsh became the host of America's Most Wanted, which relates the facts of criminal cases and helps law enforcement agencies track down criminals. So far, said Walsh over 800 criminals have been brought to justice through the efforts of Walsh and the tips from his viewers.
Noting that terrorism is now the greatest threat facing the world, Walsh related his experiences at Ground Zero, noting he saw rescuers writing their names, blood types and Social Security numbers on their arms, in case they didn't return and were themselves buried in the ruins of the World Trade Center. "Those are the heroes," said Walsh. "And you are heroes, and you must be ready for anything, because [the terrorists] are planning anything."