By Kathy Jefcoats
First-time student David Tippin has quite the story to tell his pre-K class Monday morning.
The Stockbridge 4-year-old was found safe and sound Tuesday morning after walking out of his home early Sunday morning and wandering unseen as hundreds of volunteers scoured the countryside looking for him.
"I don't think he realized he was lost," said his mom, Stacy Tippin.
Stacy and husband Robert stood on the front porch of their Holly Street home Tuesday afternoon, holding hands and thanking God for David's safe return.
"It's been a perfect day," Robert Tippin said. "It's awesome." He added that finding the strength and faith to cope through the days not knowing his son's whereabouts was something he and Stacy did without thought. "You don't have an option," he said. "People may not know where people are but God knows where everyone is."
The couple last saw David at 2 a.m. Sunday. Hours later as the family rose for services at ACTS Church of Henry County, the back door was open and David was gone.
"When I knew he was safe, I felt 180 degrees from the way I felt when I got up and walked on the back porch and found him gone," said Robert.
David was slightly dehydrated and was treated and released from Henry Medical Center. Stacy said she was amazed that he had just a few scratches but otherwise seemed fine.
Bobby Hinton and his wife, Martha, live at 297 Miller's Mill Road and own several homes of rental property toward Kitty Hawk, a local airport, about a mile from the Tippin home. They knew David was missing.
"We went out looking for him Sunday," she said. "I checked my pool."
The unoccupied rental homes were also checked Monday but searchers found no sign of David. But Tuesday morning, Bobby Hinton noticed something different about the house at 305 Miller's Mill Road.
"He went to get tools from the shed this morning and noticed the floodlights were on," said Martha. "My mother used to live there so I always check over that way because we've had break-ins before. The other lights weren't on at 12."
Bobby Hinton went inside the home and was startled at the discovery.
"He called out, ?David,'" said Martha. "The little boy opened his eyes and looked up."
Bobby Hinton picked up the boy and carried him next door to the Hinton home.
"He said, ?Look who I found,'" she said. "I was shocked, I couldn't utter a word. I couldn't think straight."
The boy was just as stunned at waking up in a strange house.
"He wouldn't budge from my husband," she said. "I got him some milk and cookies and called 911. They wanted to know what condition he was in. I said well, he's talking and eating cookies. He's scratched up a little."
Back at the Tippin home, the parents were once again being interviewed by news media. The boy's disappearance drew media interest from across the country.
"I don't even remember the time but we were being interviewed by the television and someone asked a question about what we would do when we got him back," said Robert Tippin. "We said we'd praise Jesus. Right about that time, a cop car pulled up and let us know he'd been found. We just exploded."
An ambulance was sent to the Hinton home and David was getting treatment when his parents arrived.
"When I saw him, I just cried out his name," Stacy Tippin said. "He was a little upset. He was asleep when he was found and he doesn't like doctors anyway. He was crying and clinging to us."
David was taken into Henry Medical Center where doctors pronounced him none the worse for wear and sent him back home. His grateful parents thanked a community that responded with prayers, time and food.
"We haven't had to do anything," said Stacy Tippin. "We haven't had to think of a thing, it has been phenomenal. We want everyone to know how much we love them and thank them. The police, fire, volunteers. It's just been incredible."
The discovery was almost as emotional for the Hintons, who have young grandchildren and lost a 10-year-old nephew when he wandered from home. The boy was later found drowned in a swimming pool.
"This is very emotional for us," Martha Hinton said. "We're so thankful he was found alive."
For David's part, he isn't talking about his adventure or about how he crossed busy Miller's Mill Road without being spotted or hit by a car.
"He's running around the house, happy to be home," said Stacy Tippin. "He's tired. He's also been in his room, which is filled with balloons. He loves balloons and he keeps saying, ?It's happy birthday to me.'"
Next on the boy's schedule is attending orientation for pre-kindergarten Friday before beginning classes Monday. His parents are working on preventing a future disappearance.
"We've got new deadbolts," Robert Tippin said. "But you know, we thought we were doing everything we could before to keep him from getting out. David has once again proven how quickly he grasps mechanical things and overcome them. Thank God not completely to his detriment."