Cory Wells could hear his teacher calling. But he wasn't moving.
"I started counting as a warning for them to come in, but Cory said, 'I don't care what she does, I'm going to stand here until this hawk is free,"' said teacher Teresa Belchyk.
He and several eighth-grade classmates from an Evans Middle School behaviorally challenged class were transfixed by the hawk caught in the batting cage's net earlier this month.
"Ordinarily, it's every man for himself in this classroom," Mrs. Belchyk said. "But they pulled together as a team. It was something bigger than themselves they could focus on."
The 14-year-olds - Cory, J.C. Clemons, Daniel Ingram, Aaron Miller and Chris Lamberth - came together for a rescue mission that required a ladder, a cooking apron and heavy gloves.
"He looked just like this, except he was upside down, of course" J.C. said, holding up a picture of Georgia's native broad wing hawk.
After trying to shake the bird loose from the net, the pupils gathered their supplies and got to work. Aaron was the first person to climb the ladder to free the bird, but when the hawk let out a loud screech, he fell back off the ladder. Then Cory suited up in the apron and gloves and freed the bird from the net.
"The bird fell, so I grabbed it. It was neat. It was just sitting there looking at me," he said.
Then it flew away - smacking Cory with its wing - right back into the net. The boys rescued the bird again, setting it free to fly into nearby woods.
"Man, when he took off, it was beautiful. We were all clapping," Mrs. Belchyk said.
Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.