For a Boy Scout, Brennan Hawkins wasn't very interested in trekking through the wilderness. In fact, "his mom says he can't stand hiking," says Julie Doherty, 31, the boy's Mormon Sunday school teacher. "He doesn't like rivers, open water, and he doesn't tolerate cold very well." But faced with the trial of his young life—lost for four days in the Utah mountains without food, water or shelter—the 11-year-old Brennan proved he has the makings of a future Army Ranger. As Brennan's mother, Jody, 42, put it just after rescuers found Brennan June 21 about two miles from where he had disappeared, "Prayers are answered, and children do come home."
His ordeal had begun quietly at around 5:30 p.m. June 17, when Hawkins, a fifth-grader at Leo J. Muir Elementary School in Bountiful, Utah, was last seen at the climbing wall of a camp in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest on the first night of what was to have been a weekend trip. Reported missing by nightfall, he wandered for days as rescuers fanned out on horses and ATVs through the forested terrain—and, as the days passed, searched fast-moving rivers and creeks for a body. Family friends credit the swift intervention to the parents of another Scout, Garrett Bardsley, 12—who disappeared from the same area 10 months ago and has never been found—for setting up efficient search teams, which grew to some 4,000 volunteers before Forrest Nunley, a 43-year-old house painter from Salt Lake City, spotted Hawkins on a trail near a lake. Dehydrated and disoriented but otherwise fine, the boy was hospitalized for observation. First, however, he asked for food (he wolfed down sandwiches and granola bars), water—and a chance to play a video game on a rescuer's cell phone. "That's so Brennan," says Doherty. "He just has a lot of happy energy."
On Newsstands Now
- Amy Robach: 'I'm Lucky to Be Alive'
- Paul Walker: Inside His Tragic Death
- Julia Roberts: Choosing Family Over Hollywood
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine