"Let that decay in his young mind," he said.
McGraw asked Ethan a few questions, but as 6-year-olds are apt to do, he answered most with a "Yes" or a "No."
But when the doctor asked him how he got to school, Ethan said, "On my bus, but my ..."
Then he walked over to his mother and as if telling a secret, whispered in her ear, "But my bus driver is dead."
Kirkland told McGraw that it was Poland who helped Ethan conquer his fear of descending the steep school bus steps. Poland would cheer Ethan on and one day when the child hesitated and the mother went to help, the driver said, "Let him do it."
Since then, Ethan has had no problem.
But now his cheerleader won't be there, and Kirkland is anguished about her boy.
"Mr. Poland put him behind him so he could keep a good eye on him," she said.
Ethan hasn't been back to school yet. He's been busy opening birthday presents and playing with his favorite toys. On Wednesday, he made a new friend in Gov. Robert Bentley.
There's a picture from the event where little Ethan is sitting underneath the governor's desk. The child is beaming.
"Ethan is a loving, forgiving child," Kirkland said. "He is easy to go up to a perfect stranger and say, 'Can I have a hug?'"
That was the boy who went into that bunker. She is concerned it's not the child who came out.