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Alabama Hostage: Mum Offered To Trade Places

Amanda Walker, US Correspondent
14 February 2013

The mother of a six-year-old boy who was held captive in an underground bunker has said she asked if she could swap places with her son.

In an interview that aired on Wednesday, Jennifer Kirkland told US TV psychiatrist Dr Phil McGraw that she feared the worst after a gunman who had killed her son's school bus driver took the boy hostage in Midland City, Alabama.

Parents across America were horrified by the scenario that for his mother was a torturous reality.

"That's my baby and he's my world. He's my everything. Everything I do - I do for him and I was afraid I wasn't going to get him back," she said.

Recovering from his terrifying ordeal will be a slow and delicate process for Ethan Kirkland, Dr McGraw said.

In the interview, the boy was asked how he gets to school. Ethan replied "by bus" before running over to his mother and whispering in her ear: "My bus driver is dead."

The ordeal began when Ethan's captor, Jimmy Lee Dykes, boarded a school bus in the rural community.

He fatally shot driver Charles Poland, who tried to protect his young passengers, before kidnapping Ethan.

Dykes held Ethan hostage in his underground bunker - allowing police to pass crayons and Ethan's Asperger Syndrome medication - down through a 4 inch-wide plastic pipe.

After a nearly week-long standoff the FBI stormed the bunker, killing Dykes and rescuing Ethan just days before his sixth birthday.

His mother said he had spoken little about what happened.

Dr Phil asked: "Did he see Mr Dykes shot and killed?"

"He absolutely did," Ethan's mother replied.

"Did he see Mr Poland murdered?" the psychiatrist asked.

"Yes he did, he saw Mr Poland shot three to four times," Ms Kirkland replied.

However, she said she believes his captor may have shown some sympathy toward her son.

"I think he took care of Ethan to the best of his capabilities. I was told in the beginning that he's sympathetic to children with disabilities," she said.

She said she forgave her son's captor early in the standoff and had asked the authorities not to kill him.

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