More than 100 people had gathered at the vacant lot, watching and praying through the night for 22-month-old Da'jour McMillian, who was playing with his older brother and sister near his grandparents' house when he disappeared down the 14-foot well that was overgrown with grass and unknown to neighbors and firefighters.
"The man who cuts the grass didn't even know about it," said firefighter Jimmy Brown.
Da'jour was hospitalized in good condition, after a night that Mayor Jim Cave said "seemed like an eternity."
Brown said when Frisco City firefighters and police arrived, they realized they needed help and called for a rescue team from Mobile with special training. An Alabama Power Co. drill was used to dig a shaft next to the one where the little boy was trapped. Rescue workers then tunneled over to the well to reach the child about 5:45 a.m.
A camera was dropped down the well to keep an eye on the boy during the rescue. The warm night helped ward off hypothermia. The main worry was that the child might not be able to breathe in the narrow hole.
"It wouldn't have taken but a little dirt on that child to suffocate him," said the mayor, who was at the site through the long night.
Brown said the child was "as happy as he could be" when he emerged from the well.
"When he came out he saw his momma, and he called out for his momma," said Tammy Howard, a cousin. "Oh, yes, it was a miracle."
The well and the hole dug for the rescue were filled in with red dirt to prevent another accident.
Several firefighters said the events at Frisco City, a town of 1,500 about 60 miles north of Mobile, reminded them of the 1987 rescue of 18-month-old Jessica McClure of Midland, Texas, who fell into an abandoned well and became trapped 22 feet down in a hole 8 inches wide. It took emergency crews 2 1/2 days to reach the little girl. Jessica recovered from her injuries.
Cave said the rescue was good news for a city that has seen heartache in recent years. Much of the town's business district was destroyed in a fire in 2001. The town is still clearing debris and repairing homes and businesses heavily damaged in September by Hurricane Ivan.
"We have had our share of problems," the mayor said. "But this morning we are thankful."
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