Terrie Ruff hugged her 10-year-old son a little tighter Monday afternoon.
Just minutes after her son, Michael Huskey, and his 7-year-old cousin left to walk to Pleasant Knoll Elementary School on Monday morning, Ruff said, they burst through the door in a panic.
“He ran in hysterical, just crying, upset, shaking,” Ruff recalled a few hours after a man allegedly tried to abduct the two children. “Mama, mama, somebody just tried to get us!”
Michael said they were walking on Whitley Road about 7:45 a.m. Monday, approaching a curve about half a mile from the school.
“This man came out, he had a pair of pliers that had knives in them,” he said. “Then he said, ‘Hello’ and ‘Get over here.’”
Michael said he told his cousin to run, and the two ran up a hill, dropping their book bags. They went back to his home and told Ruff what happened. She put the boys in the car and they went to find their book bags.
Ruff said they found the tool the man allegedly used lying on the ground. Deputies were already at the school by the time they got there.
“For him (Michael) to sit there and take charge the way he did and tell his little cousin to run, run and just run,” she said, “I’m very proud of him.”
K-9 units from the sheriff’s office combed the area throughout the morning trying to locate a scent of the man. The Fort Mill Police Department assisted in patrols.
Investigators are following up on tips from people who may have seen the man, who was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and dark pants, according to Trent Faris, a spokesman for the York County Sheriff’s Office. No arrests had been made late Monday.
Faris said deputies located what appeared to be a Leatherman multi-tool that has pliers and knives built into it.
Ruff said they’ve lived in the area for four years, the last three of which Michael has been walking to school without a problem.
“For something like that to happen, it’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” she said. “Knowing that could have been the last time I seen my son that morning and sitting there, not knowing if he was at school, it’s heartbreaking.”
The incident prompted a brief lockdown at Pleasant Knoll Elementary, according to Kelly McKinney, a spokeswoman for the Fort Mill school district. The lockdown was lifted about 12:30 p.m.
Principal Grey Young said in a message to parents the “external” lockdown was a precaution.
“We are very proud of our two students and the decision they made to return home immediately when they felt in danger,” Young said Monday. “We will have police officers at our school for dismissal today to ensure the safety of our students, staff and parents. We ask that you speak with your children tonight about what to do in these type of situations.”
Ruff said her son doesn’t want to walk to school anymore.
“For outside kids that just don’t want to be outside without a parent or somebody with them that they know and trust ... it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “No child should ever have to feel that way.”