GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) - More than 130 people from two states searched through the night--and got the happy ending an entire community was pulling for.
"You know, he was cut up from brush, and things like that, but other than that he was just hungry. And wanted some breakfast,"said Sgt. JD Redman, the commander of the Greenville County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team.
Redman says 9-year-old Matthew Yarbrough made it through in part due his own resourcefulness.
"We know that he actually covered up and used leaves to stay warm over night," he explained.
That's why officials say they're interviewing Matthew and studying what he says.
"For us, it's also planning for this to ever happen again. I need to know where he went, how he got there," said Redman.
But while officals are focused on the future after a job well-done, one expert says Yarbrough's resiliency can't be overlooked.
"To be that age, and just have to figure out where you're going. And now know when help is coming--that's the tough part," said Brittney Clow, a counselor and mental health expert who who works with a lot of children and families.
"For this boy to be able to make sense of it for himself is so powerful," she told FOX Carolina. "I think it can be a story that will forever tragically scar him...or it can be something that becomes sort of an empowerment story of 'wow--what a survival!'"
She says, in survival scenarios like this, mental traits like anxiety and problem-solving come into play.
"So if he sat there worried and panicking, his emotional and physical reserves are going to be low. He's going to be exhausted," she explained.
"It's very easy to stumble, and it's very easy to get caught up in that feeling of helplessness and panic," Clow added.
But she says it seems like matthew did the opposite.
"He followed water--because he thought it would lead him back to the pond," echoed Redman.
"He was able to say 'ok, i just need a safe place to be, i need to deal with this presenting issue.' just one step at a time," said Clow.
And that's what made all the difference.
We spoke to Matthew's uncle, Robert Alexander, on Saturday evening. He said the amount of law enforcement and volunteers who came together was overwhelming.
"He had been missing for a few hours and I knew time was critical," Alexander said.
Alexander said he applauds law enforcement about the way they are looking at this search as a learning opportunity. "They were immediately already thinking about, "Thank God, we found him, but also what can we learn from him? His thought process, what he did, and how he survived the night to where we can get better at this," Alexander said.
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