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Community still grieving 5 years after Midland City hostage crisis

Updated: Jan. 29, 2018 at 6:38 PM CST
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Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson says he still remembers the day vividly. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson says he still remembers the day vividly. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MIDLAND CITY, AL (WSFA) - Five years later for people who live in Midland City, the events of the hostage situation are still fresh and vivid.

Ginger Creamer, a bus driver in Dale County, can remember the moment she arrived at home and was greeted by children asking if she had heard about the shooting and if she was okay.

Soon after talking with a friend, she would learn it was her longtime friend and co-worker Charles "Chuck" Poland who was killed.

"I asked those kids where, they told me the vicinity that it had happened according to the police band radio. She said, 'Ginger that's Chuck's route.' That's when I put two and two together," Creamer said.

Poland was confronted by Jimmie Lee Dykes during his normal afternoon route. Dykes, who Poland had met previously, demanded Poland give him two children to take hostage. When Poland said no and intervened, Dykes shot and killed him and kidnapped a Midland City Elementary school student, known to the nation as Ethan.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson says he still remembers the day vividly.

"The initial call, arriving on scene, the kids running down the hill, the chaos," Olson said.

Olson says he went back to the area where Ethan was held hostage for days in the underground bunker last week. Although the landscape has changed over time, he still sees that hostage scene. And years later he says he has questions.

One he says people will never know - why did Dykes do this?

The other, a moral question some people asked when they found out Poland gave his life for those students - what would you do?

"One thing that stands out to me is how a man of faith stood up for a group of kids and sacrificed himself. We all wonder. We can only hope to have that much faith and strength," Olson said.

The situation still weighs heavy on bus driver Melinda Campbell who took over Poland's route after his death.

"I felt the hurt - like I really shouldn't be there. That he should have been the one behind the wheel," Campbell said.

Five years later, the community isn't sure this is a pain time will heal.

"It was just a tragic, tragic time, and I don't think we'll ever get over it," said Creamer tearfully.

But even in the midst of grief, many are sure Poland didn't die in vain, and his sacrifice is surely a lesson.

"I know that he would be very, very proud of the men and women have become. And to know it wasn't in vain because they have grown so much with what they dealt with," Campbell said.

"Even somebody like Mr. Dykes, who was so unlovable, Mr. Poland cared for that man and reached out to him. I think that in itself should be an example to all of us – to aspire to be that man, Chuck Poland," Creamer said.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.