The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 5, 2013

Family celebrates boy's rescue from Ala. bunker



MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama family celebrated the rescue of a 5-year-old held hostage for a week in an underground bunker as authorities painstakingly checked for bombs on the abductor's property Tuesday, a day after a police raid left the man dead.

The FBI and other law enforcement officials left plenty of questions open about how they made the call to rush in and what happened inside the closet-sized hideout on the rural property, where the boy had been held by Jimmy Lee Dykes. But relatives said there was no question about the relief they feel.

"If I could, I would do cartwheels all the way down the road," the boy's great-aunt, Debra Cook, told ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday — a day before the boy's 6th birthday. "We'd all been walking around in a fog."

She said the boy was happy and playing with his old toys, including a dinosaur. "He was having the biggest time," Cook said.

School officials said at a news conference Tuesday that they planned to have a party to celebrate the boy's birthday, which is Wednesday, though they had not yet set a date for the party. The celebration, likely at the high school football field, would also honor the memory of Charles Albert Poland Jr., the bus driver credited as a hero for his actions to keep nearly two dozen other children on the bus safe when Dykes boarded to abduct the boy.

Principal Phillip Parker said his colleagues were eagerly awaiting the boy's return, though he did not know when that would be.

"We'd love to have him back tomorrow," he said.

Parker stands at the entrance to the school every day as the children arrive, and described the boy as a friendly, energetic child who comes up, shakes his hand and then continues on into the school as if he's in a hurry.

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