The boy who became known to the world simply as Ethan spent much of his sixth birthday playing with his new remote control car, purposely directing it toward the feet of family and friends, laughing as it bounced away.
He celebrated the way most 6-year-olds celebrate — with new toys, food and fun.
Ethan Gilman’s brother, Camren Kirkland, said Ethan had a normal day Wednesday.
If the events of last week’s abduction at the hands of a gunman are having any effects on Ethan, they remain below the surface, Kirkland said.
“Ethan is a very happy, outgoing kid. And, he was very happy (Wednesday) as he celebrated his birthday,” Kirkland said. “From what I have seen personally, it doesn’t look like this has affected him, really.”
Kirkland said the entire week-long abduction and subsequent rescue has reinforced a bond with his little brother, who calls Kirkland “Bubba.”
“We were close. But after this, we are closer now than we were,” said Kirkland, 21.
Monday afternoon, a lone FBI representative came to the Dothan hotel where the family had been staying. Family members were taken into a separate room.
Kirkland said he can remember the FBI man’s words.
“We have great news. We have Ethan. He is fine, safe and headed to the hospital to be evaluated,” the FBI representative said.
“One of the best moments of my life,” Kirkland said.
Kirkland said Ethan has not said anything to him about the incident.
“He has not mentioned anything about it to me, or anyone else I know about,” Kirkland said. “All we are doing now is rejoicing that my brother is safe and I am just there wanting to see him every day.”
During the six-day crisis, the family was accompanied by Wiregrass Angel House, a non-profit victims’ support service.
“I can’t begin to say how much of a difference they meant,” Kirkland said. “They comforted us, stayed by our side, prayed by our side, made sure we had the food we needed, you name it. They were phenomenal — very supportive and uplifting.”
Kirkland said the family was also appreciative of the outpouring of community support.
“The community has been great to come together for Ethan,” Kirkland said. “They pulled together and really did help us. I want to thank everyone for everything they have done for Ethan.”