(MIDLAND CITY, Ala.) — The 5-year-old held hostage in a nearly week-long standoff in Alabama is cheerfully watching Spongebob and posting sticky notes on everyone around him at the hospital as organizers plan a birthday party for him so big it may take place at a high school football stadium.
The boy, identified only as Ethan, is apparently unharmed but is at the hospital for numerous evaluations, authorities said Tuesday.
Ethan was rescued by the FBI Monday after they rushed the underground bunker where suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, was holding him. Dykes was killed in the raid and the boy was taken away from the bunker in an ambulance.
Ethan’s thrilled relatives told Good Morning America Tuesday that he seemed “normal as a child could be” after what he went through and has been happily playing with his toy dinosaur.
“He’s happy to be home,” Ethan’s great uncle Berlin Enfinger told GMA. “He’s very excited and he looks good.”
“For the first time in almost a week, I woke up this morning to the most beautiful sight…my sweet boy. I can’t describe how incredible it is to hold him again,” Ethan’s mother wrote in a statement released by the FBI Tuesday.
Ethan is “running around the hospital room, putting sticky notes on everyone that was in there, eating a turkey sandwich and watching Spongebob,” Dale County Schools Superintendent Donny Bynum said at a news conference Tuesday.
Ethan is expected to be released from the hospital later Tuesday and head home, where he will be greeted by birthday cards from his friends at school. Ethan will celebrate his 6th birthday Wednesday.
When asked about a birthday party for Ethan, Bynum said, “We are still in the planning stages. Our time frame is that we are waiting for Ethan, waiting on that process, but we are going to have it at a school facility, most likely the football stadium at Dale County High School.”
He said many “tears of celebration” were shed Monday night when Ethan was reunited with his family.
“If I could, I would do cartwheels all the way down the road,” Ethan’s aunt Debra Cook told GMA. “I was ecstatic. Everything just seemed like it was so much clearer. You know, we had all been walking around in a fog and everyone was just excited. There’s no words to put how we felt and how relieved we were.”
Cook said that Ethan has not yet told them anything about what happened in the bunker and they know very little about Dykes.
What the family does know is that they are overjoyed to have their “little buddy” back.
“He’s a special child, 90 miles per hour all the time,” Cook said. “[He’s] a very, very loving child. When he walks in the room, he just lights it up.”
Dykes allegedly shot and killed bus driver Albert Poland Jr., 66, before taking Ethan hostage.
Authorities said Tuesday they have not yet spoken to Poland’s family since Ethan’s rescue, but were planning on visiting them Tuesday.
“We know that Ms. Poland is aware and she is celebrating today with us and we did talk to Mr. Poland’s son who lives in Hickory, North Carolina,” Bynum said. “He called last night and made the comment, ‘My dad’s last child is home.’ So it goes to show what kind of people they are.”
A new school bus and new driver were back Tuesday on the route where Poland was killed and Ethan was kidnapped.
Officials have remained tight-lipped about the raid, citing the ongoing investigation.
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Jason Hanna, Darran Simon and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN
Rob McLean and Joshua Berlinger, CNN
Noelle Baldwin, Deseret News
Lisa Respers France, CNN