Amazing News: Little Alabama Boy Rescued!

The scene above ground where the hostage crisis unfolded. The kidnapper held Ethan for 6-days before FBI agents stormed the underground bunker and rescued him.

I’ve been so afraid to follow this story because I was afraid the ending would be tragic, but this time it wasn’t. The little 5-year old boy, Ethan, who was kidnapped from his school bus after the driver was killed for refusing to hand over any children has been rescued and he is unharmed, at least physically. The kidnapper did not survive.

A six-day standoff between an angry and violent survivalist who held a 5-year-old boy hostage in an underground bunker and a legion of local, state and federal law enforcement officials ended on Monday with the death of the kidnapper and the freeing of the boy.

The article goes on:

On Monday afternoon, sensing that [the kidnapper] was becoming rattled and that the threat to the boy was growing more severe, the authorities dropped two devices into the bunker that created loud explosions, heard by people across the highway. The explosions disoriented [the kidnapper], and immediately afterward two or three men moved into the bunker and retrieved the child. [The kidnapper] was killed in the rescue.

Although the story has a happy ending for Ethan, I think it’s important to remember the bus driver who did not survive:

The standoff began last Tuesday afternoon when [the kidnapper] approached a bus driven by Charles Albert Poland Jr., saying he wanted to give him some broccoli he had grown in his garden. The two knew each other; Mr. Poland had given [the kidnapper] a gift of eggs and homemade jam several days earlier. Once on the bus, [the kidnapper] handed Mr. Poland a note and demanded two children between the ages of 6 and 8.

Mr. Poland opened the emergency door in the back of the bus and as the children escaped he blocked [the kidnapper]’s way; [the kidnapper] shot him four times, killing him. [The kidnapper] then managed to take Ethan and set off the six-day siege of his bunker.

This is Charles Albert Poland, Jr. He is the heroic bus driver who died protecting the kids on his bus. Now they are all safe. His is the picture we should see and remember.

Because of the bravery of Charles Albert Poland, Jr. , 20 children escaped safely that day, and that makes him a big, damn hero. On Sunday, he was buried at a service attended by hundreds.He left behind a daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. And today the law enforcement officers successfully finished the struggle that Charles started. No part of his sacrifice was in vain. This time, every child gets to come home.

The Georgia Daily article describing him also quotes some friends and coworkers of Charles:

A former colleague described Mr Poland as, ‘A fine man. It was an honor to know him and absolutely no surprise that he acted as he did.’

Friend, Glenda Walker, 54, from Newton described him as a ‘dear friend who will be greatly missed,’ as she recalled ‘many time drinking hot tea and eating toast and just talking,’ with Mr Poland and his wife.

He sounds like an absolutely ordinary, everyday, American hero and I hope to God that for once people remember his name instead of the bad guy’s. We owe him, his family, and ourselves at least that much.

5 thoughts on “Amazing News: Little Alabama Boy Rescued!”

  1. I love my kids’ bus drivers and don’t doubt for a minute they’d have done the same thing as Mr. Poland. Absolutely a hero. I avoided reading the news on this story as well … And I’ve already forgotten the kidnapper’s name.

  2. thanks for highlighting Mr. Poland. I hadn’t been following the story either until yesterday and he was basically a footnote to the story I read. I tried to read more about him but couldn’t find much. this incredibly brave act needs to be emphasized more.

  3. That’s exactly why I did it, Joel. Because it should be.

    Obviously we should allow the names of violent criminals to be published. I’m not trying to suppress anything, but right now in the world they get treated like celebrities, and they don’t deserve that. It’s a question of balance. It’s a question of what we think is worth focusing on and remembering. And in this story there’s an obvious answer to that question: focus on the Charles Albert Poland, Jr, the bus driver who gave his life trying to save the kids on his bus.

    And yet even the articles about his funeral, held last Sunday, spent most of their time giving us details about the kidnapper that don’t matter. I’d like to know more about Charles, and how his family is doing. I know that it’s unrealistic to treat him like a saint, but whenever we talk about heroes or villains in the press we are creating a narrative. And the narrative I want to create is one where an ordinary guy who probably has all the same weaknesses that the rest of us do gets treated like a hero when he makes the decision to give up his life for the sake of others. You do that, and you get a pass on the other stuff. I’m OK with that. We’ve got enough villains. We need some more heroes.

    Which, by the way, is why I also wouldn’t mind some more stories about the cops who opposed the kidnapper. Who is the lead negotiator? Who are the two or three men who rushed into the bunker to save the kid? Maybe we need to keep some names private, and there are dangers to turning all your authority figures into heroes or whitewashing away the human foibles of people who make brave sacrifices, but right now it’s time to pull our society back into alignment with our priorities and spend more time talking about the good guys.

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