By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - The drama began last week when a gunman boarded a Dale County, Alabama, school bus, shot and killed the driver and grabbed a 5-year-old boy. It ended days later with the boy, Ethan, rescued from a bunker where he was held hostage, and his 65-year-old abductor dead.
Now that Ethan is safe, even celebrating his 6th birthday this week, officials are poring over the details of how the case unfolded, starting on the school bus.
It played out over 4½ minutes, a scene captured by a camera mounted at the front of the bus. It's a security measure common on buses now.
Witnesses and officials who reviewed the recording said Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded the bus with a gun and handed a note to the driver demanding to take several children. The driver, Charles Poland, refused. He stood, placing himself between the gunman and the students.
Meanwhile, older students opened an emergency exit on the back of the bus and ran away from the bus. They knew what to do: Twice-per-year emergency drills reminded them how to evacuate.
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They're the kind of emergency procedures many schools have practiced more since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December. Officials in Alabama said it appeared all safety procedures were followed aboard Poland's bus.
Still, it didn't save everyone. Dykes shot Poland, killing him, and grabbed Ethan, who was seated toward the front, where Poland usually kept an eye on him. The boy was held hostage for days before being rescued on Monday.
Poland was laid to rest this week and remembered by his family and friends as a hero who took steps that may have saved the lives of the kids on the bus.
"They were his 'young'uns,' when he had them on the bus," his brother-in-law Melvin Skipper told CNN affiliate WDHN.
Poland's son, Aaron, said he wasn't surprised at all to hear what unfolded in the bus, to know that his dad stood his ground, allowing dozens of children to escape safely.
"That's my dad's key job, to make sure every child was delivered safely to their parents," Aaron Poland said. "My dad didn't have a selfish bone in his body. He did everything he could to be right, to do the right thing for everybody around him or anybody he cared for."