A 6-year-old boy was among dozens of churchgoers shot in the tragic Sutherland Springsmassacre back in November. After spending two months in the hospital, he was given a heartwarming Texas homecoming with a special fire truck ride from the volunteer firefighter who saved his life.
On November 5th, a gunman opened fire in the rural First Baptist Church, claiming the lives of 26 parishioners. The massacre was deemed the worst mass shooting in Texas history. 6-year-old Ryland Ward was among the injured, struck in the stomach, arms, and leg. He was found and brought to safety by volunteer firefighter Rusty Duncan.
“I was just checking for survivors, and I felt a little tug on my pant leg,” Duncan told the San Antonio Express-News. “I looked down and a little hand was coming from under somebody.” That somebody was Ryland’s stepmother, Joann Ward, who lost her life attempting to shield him from the gunfire.
Duncan rushed Ryland to San Antonio’s University Hospital where he had to undergo multiple surgeries. Duncan and his family visited Ryland throughout his two-month stay at the hospital and made him a special promise: that he would take him for a ride in his fire truck once the doctors cleared him to go home.
When Ryland was finally discharged, Duncan said that he was “ready to get in the truck right away.” The Sutherland Springs community gathered to give Ryland a very special welcome home and stated that he looked like a “kid on Christmas morning” when he arrived in town.
“He wanted to go faster. He wanted the siren to be louder, and he wanted me to honk more at all the people,” Duncan told TODAY. “He was having a blast.” This special homecoming wasn’t the only way the community helped out Ryland. During his convalescence, people from all across the globe sent Ryland Christmas cards and raised roughly $160,000 for his hospital bill through GoFundMe.
“He’s a character,” Duncan told ABC News. “This little boy has the best fighting spirit I’ve ever seen out of anybody in my entire life. He’s kept me going this whole time. Even when I was giving up … just thinking about him and being around him makes me smile.”