In January, the country watched horror-stricken as Jimmy Lee Dykes held 5-year-old Ethan, an autistic boy who was on his way to school in Alabama, hostage in an underground bunker for six days. Now new details of how it all began, and how it all ended -- miraculously with Ethan alive and safe -- are coming to light. We already knew that bus driver Charles Poland resisted Dykes' demand for two young children. We knew that he was killed for his refusal. But now we know how truly harrowing that moment was -- and how astonishingly brave Poland was as well.
ABC News obtained audio files of the moment that Dykes entered the bus, pointed a gun at driver Poland, and demanded young hostages. The audio is riveting and horrific and highlights how this man truly gave up his life for those of the children in his care. Here is the dialogue between them:
Dykes: I need two boys, 6 to 8 years old, 6 to 8 years old. I mean it. Right now! Right now!
Poland: I can't do it.
Dykes: Do it!
Poland: No. Sorry, you're going to have to shoot me.
Dykes: How about I shoot a kid then?
Poland: No. It's my responsibility to keep these kids on the bus. I can't turn them over to somebody else.
Meanwhile, a 15-year-old on the bus was crouched below his seat, on the phone with a 911 operator. As Dykes loses patience and shoots Poland in the face, the operator asks: "Oh my gosh, what's going on?"
He answered: "He just shot Mr. Poland. I think Mr. Poland is dead."
Poland had been shot five times. And this by a man he knew and considered his friend.
Horrific. Unbelievable. Charles Poland is the very definition of the word hero. He was not just going to hand over two children to a maniac. And yet he knew that if he was killed, nothing would stop the maniac from taking children anyway.
But he was not going to hand over a child. I can't imagine what went through Poland's mind as this was happening. Except protecting the children in his care. Charles Poland left behind two children and two grandchildren.
And every single child on that bus is his child.
What would you have done?
Image via ABC News