At the request of law enforcement authorities, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had approved the provision of certain equipment that could be employed to assist in the hostage situation, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss a pending law enforcement matter. It is not clear whether the equipment was actually used.
In Midland City, a town of about 2,400 nestled among peanut and cotton fields, residents were relieved that the boy was safely rescued from Dykes, a man neighbors described as an unstable menace who beat a dog to death and threatened to shoot trespassers.
Children and teachers were trying to get back to normal, though some children who were on the bus where Dykes killed the driver have not yet returned to school, said Donny Bynum, superintendent of Midland City schools. Counselors and clergy are at the school to help any distraught students.
Officials hope to eventually throw a party to celebrate the boy's 6th birthday and to honor the memory of Charles Albert Poland Jr., the slain bus driver. No date has been set, Bynum said.
Midland City Elementary School principal Phillip Parker said he stands at the entrance to the school every day as the children arrive. The boy is a friendly, energetic child who comes up, shakes his hand and then continues on into the school as if he's in a hurry, Parker said.
Officials said there was no indication that Dykes had harmed the boy. State Sen. Harri Anne Smith represents Midland City and bonded with the boy's mother during the ordeal. Smith said the mother was encouraged the day the boy was abducted because Dykes asked officers to bring fried chicken -- Ethan's favorite food.
"That was good news for her that Mr. Dykes was being kind to him,'' Smith said.
The boy gave his mother a big hug at the hospital, where officers gave the boy a teddy bear, Olson said.
"He's just a bundle of joy,'' Olson said.
For now, the boy's family just wants things to go back to normal -- for all the reporters to go home, for him to be like any other kid.
"He has gone through a terrible ordeal, and I don't know if he will ever get over it,'' said Debra Cook, the boy's great aunt. "I just want him to be all right.''