Midland City hostage opens up 5 years after crisis

Ethan Turner opens up five years after he was taken hostage on a school bus in Midland City (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Ethan Turner opens up five years after he was taken hostage on a school bus in Midland City (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MIDLAND CITY, AL (WSFA) - Five years ago this week, around 300 law enforcement officials from across the country converged on the small town of Midland City. The goal: rescue 5-year-old Ethan Turner.

Turner was kidnapped off his school bus at gunpoint by Jimmie Lee Dykes during the afternoon bus route on Jan. 29, 2013. His bus driver, Charles Poland Jr., was shot and killed for trying to intervene.

Dykes held Ethan hostage for days in an underground bunker. On the sixth day, when negotiations were beginning to deteriorate, law enforcement stormed the bunker, rescuing Ethan and killing Dykes.

At 10 years old, it's safe to say Ethan Turner has seen more in his short life than most of us will ever see.

He doesn't remember all the details of the hostage crisis that played out on television, but parts of the experience are ingrained in his memory – like the moment Dykes decided to take him hostage.

"I remember I looked up and I got snatched up," said Ethan shyly.

Ethan also remembers the struggle that took place.

"The guy d ropped me and then d ropped his gun. He picked me back up. I was trying to run, but I didn't have time," Ethan said.

His experience in the bunker isn't as vivid, but when Ethan's mind goes back to that time, he uses one word to describe it.

"It was just bad," he said.

But for all Ethan's been through, his parents Brandon and Nicci Turner say you wouldn't be able to tell if you didn't know his story.

"If it weren't for knowing about it and asking him about it, you'd never know he went through anything. He's so well adjusted to all of it. He's a lot stronger than I would be," Brandon Turner said.

Ethan agrees that he's strong but more accurately a survivor.

"I'm still here and I'm still alive," Ethan said.

His parents say he's doing well in school and even riding the bus again, which Ethan admitted initially was a little difficult.

"When he started back to school with us, we didn't know how he'd do. He has a lot of brothers and sisters, so he wasn't getting on there by himself," said Brandon Turner.

Ethan is one of the Turner's 10 children.

The Turners believe Ethan may have had some therapy before they were given full custody in 2015. While in their care, the focus has been on providing love and support and lots prayer.

"We have our church family at Judson Baptist Church. They rally around him. We pray. They love this kid. That's our therapy," said Nicci Turner.

And during prayer, there is a family they always mention.

"Still to this day, he prays for the Poland family and Mr. Poland himself," Nicci Turner said.

Nicci Turner believes prayer and divine intervention are the reasons Ethan is still here.

"I still feel to this day that He has some sort of plan with Ethan, through Ethan with everything that's happened," she said.

What that plan will be isn't totally clear yet. For now, Ethan is just hoping to get a NERF gun for his 11th birthday next Tuesday.

The family hopes to reunite Ethan with his old teachers from Midland City Elementary soon.

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