It's only been a few days since the weeklong hostage crisis involving Ethan Gilman came to a dramatic close. Now the 6-year-old's mother is speaking out about her son's kidnapper and the grueling ordeal her family went through.
"From the very beginning I had already forgiven Mr. Dykes, even though he still had my child," Jennifer Kirkland told Dr. Phil. "I asked that he not be hurt, but if it came down to it, you know, of course I want my child safe."
Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded a school bus during a routine stop and shot and killed the bus driver as he attempted to protect his passengers. Dykes was able to get off four shots and take Ethan with him into an underground bunker, where they remained for six full days before FBI officials were able to storm the bunker and free Ethan.
Dykes, Kirkland said, "took care of Ethan to the best of his abilities" and never harmed the child. Ethan has finally started talking about his experience, which is hard to do since he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism.
"My bus driver is dead," he whispered to Dr. Phil. "The Army came in and shot the bad man," Ethan told his mother.
The FBI raided the underground bunker and, upon seeing Dykes holding a gun, immediately fired their own weapons. They stated that communication with Dykes had broken down and they were fearful he might turn and hurt Ethan. Unfortunately, the 6-year-old witnessed the entire raid and saw Dykes die.
"He doesn't have a grasp of what happened to him but I think he knows it was a very violent act and that it frightened him," Dr. Phil told Kirkland.
Ethan has not been to school since he was taken hostage and the sight of a school bus causes him to become severely agitated. Kirkland also revealed that he "has had a very hard time sleeping soundly. He is tossing and turning, slinging his arms around."
The family welcomed Ethan home with a party including his rescuers, which brought the boy some joy after a terrible ordeal. Kirkland realizes how fortunate her family was, especially given the news that Dykes had rigged the bunker with explosives.
"I can't describe how incredible it is to hold him again. Ethan is safe and back in my arms – and I owe it all to some of the most compassionate people on earth," Kirkland said.