The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 7, 2013

Experts warn of long recovery for boy in bunker

— BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The boy who was freed from an underground bunker is acting like a typical 5-year-old by all accounts, playing with toys and running around, but psychology experts and a woman who suffered through a similar ordeal warn there could be long-term emotional scars.

Ethan, the boy whom law enforcement officials have identified only by his first name, was rescued Monday when the FBI stormed the shelter and killed his kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes, in a shootout. Ethan, who was not physically harmed, was taken to a hospital and reunited with family. He had his sixth birthday Wednesday.

"He's old enough that he will remember this. If he were 2 or 3, it might be another matter. But if you think of something really bad that happened when you were 5 or 6, you can remember those things," said Nadine Kaslow, a family therapist and psychiatry professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

She said he will need to be evaluated for nightmares and lingering signs of fear or trauma, like aggression.

"The most important thing for him is going to be to connect with the therapist and have a safe place to go," said Kaslow, the president-elect of the American Psychological Association.

Katie Beers was kidnapped in 1992 as a 9-year-old and kept in an underground bunker in suburban New York for 17 days before her captor surrendered and showed police where she was hidden.

She credited her foster family with giving her a loving home life and structure, noting the best decision they made was to keep her out of the public spotlight.

"In my experience, not being in the public eye helped out tremendously," she said.

Beers ended 20 years of silence last month, when she released a book co-written a television reporter who covered her kidnapping: "Buried Memories: Katie Beers' Story"

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