The Alabama boy who was abducted at gunpoint from his school bus last week and saved by authorities on Tuesday is celebrating his 6th birthday at home Wednesday as an outpouring of support for him continues, including a community fund in his hometown of Midland City set up to send him to Disney World.
The boy, known publicly only as Ethan, has returned home. He appeared to be doing well Tuesday at a Dothan, Ala., hospital, according to his grandmother, after he was removed safely from a makeshift underground bunker by law enforcement after a six-day hostage standoff that left his captor shot dead by the FBI.
“For the first time in almost a week, I woke up this morning to the most beautiful sight … my sweet boy,” Ethan’s mother said in a statement released by the FBI. “I can’t describe how incredible it is to hold him again.”
The boy’s grandmother, Betty Jean Ransbottom, told the Associated Press that Ethan seemed fine physically, but she was uncertain about how he might fair mentally after being kept hostage for nearly a week.
His aunt, Debra Cook, said Ethan seemed to have come through the ordeal physically unscathed. She said he was playing with toy dinosaurs and seemed happy, watching SpongeBob SquarePants cartoons in the hospital. “He has gone through a terrible ordeal, and I don’t know if he will ever get over it,” Cook told the AP. “I just want him to be all right.”
The principal at Midland City Elementary, which Ethan attends, told CNN that more than 1,200 birthday cards had been received from supporters across the nation. The town hopes to hold a massive birthday party in a football stadium to show their thanks that he survived the horrific ordeal.
Meanwhile, locals mourned the boy’s bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, who was shot and killed in the abduction last week. He was hailed as a hero for protecting other children on the bus, shielding them from the gunman.
The abductor, Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, a Vietnam veteran who had a long history of violence, was killed in the raid.