SAN ANTONIO — The last Sutherland Springs shooting patient, Ryland Ward, returned home Thursday.
Ryland, 6, has been recovering at University Hospital from the mass shooting that claimed the lives of his stepmother and two sisters in November 2017. Ryland went through extensive recovery after being shot five times in the arm, leg and stomach.
The truck was driven by Rusty Duncan, a member of the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department, the man who saved his life on Nov. 5.
Community members were on hand to welcome him as he passed through town.
"These are happy tears," said Terrie Smith, one of the dozens who lined up along the main intersection of town. Their emotions clear on their faces.
The last time crowds gathered like this, they mourned a devastating act. This time, they celebrated the return of 6-year-old Ryland Ward - one of the survivors of the attack on the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
"He's really strong. We're all rooting for him. We have lots of love for Ryland," said Kelly Kutach.
The little boy has become a symbol of strength. After more than two months in the hospital, he was brought home by the very people who helped save his life. The first responders behind the wheels of the convoy were some of the first to arrive on the scene of the shooting.
"I think he had angels all around him while he was at the hospital," said Virginia McMeans who cried as the convoy of vehicles escorting Ryland home passed by.
This community is making sure he's not alone here at home.
Many of the people who lined the highway then headed over to the church to pay respects to those who lost their lives. They say helping Ryland heal means never forgetting his family or friends either. Two of Ryland's sisters and his stepmother, Joann, were killed in the attack. In all, 26 people died.
"Joann and I were the best of friends. Little Ryland is like a little grandson to me and now he's home," said Terrie Smith.