Tracking dogs and helicopters, night vision and thermal scopes, the peal of the Kilgore High School spirit bell – they were all pressed into service to find Christopher “Bubba T” Terry.
After almost 36 hours missing, the 54-year-old ended the search himself Friday morning.
Soon after walking out of the woods near Pirtle United Methodist Church, the special needs adult was surrounded by family members, friends and volunteer searchers grateful to have him back, unharmed, after he left his home and trudged into the dark about 9 p.m. Wednesday night.
“I’m fine. I feel good,” Bubba T said with a thumbs-up, looking forward to the Bulldogs’ Friday night bout with Texas High following his outdoor ordeal.
No one can say for sure how many volunteers contributed to the search for their friend and fellow Bulldogs fan. Dozens then scores then more than 100 jumped in trucks, hopped on four-wheelers or set out on foot in search of the man throughout Thursday and into the night – they were ready for another round Friday until Bubba T walked out of the morning fog to Pirtle UMC, where local law enforcement had set up their command post.
Numerous agencies were involved in the search, from the Rusk County Sheriff’s Department and Henderson Rescue Unit to firefighters and police officers from multiple surrounding communities as well as the Christus-TMF Flight for Life, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks & Wildlife and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which brought tracking dogs to join a private pair looking for the missing man.
According to Alicia Clark, her uncle – who has autism – became upset with his family Wednesday and walked away from Damon and Renee Clark’s home in his jeans and a ballcap.
“By the time my mom got her keys and the car,” Clark said, “she didn’t at that point know which way he had gone.”
The searchers took no chances, covering a wide area from Pirtle to Kilgore to Lake Cherokee and re-searching land just in case they had missed Bubba T. His niece suspects he didn’t roam too far from home and likely scaled a tree at some point, frightened of the dogs and the searchers looking for him.
“We honestly will never know where he was at,” she said, but at least he’s home unharmed.
It’s a good ending, Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Price said, grateful for the help from the various agencies and, at a rough count, 150-plus volunteers.
“People poured out lots of love because they all love Bubba and love the family,” family friend Dereck Borders said. “Bottom line is, the good lord was involved in it – Bubba come out this morning, just come walking up.
“He’s in great spirits, in good shape, almost perfect. It’s just wonderful to have him back, and it’s a miracle of God. We’re just glad to have Bubba back. He’s going to be ready for Friday night football.”