Each year, as the daylight hours get shorter and our mornings get darker, I am reminded of an incident that occurred about six years. It is a memory that makes my heart race each time I recount the events of that morning and one that will remain with me for a lifetime.
It was a cold, dark, rainy morning in early October, and I was in the middle of picking up my High school students. I just left a neighborhood plat as I turned left from Spring Valley, onto Yankee Street, traveling northbound. I had a stop, two houses in from the corner of, Spring Valley and Yankee St. I stopped at the location listed on the route sheet. The one student that was listed on the route sheet to board the bus, was waiting at her place of safety. She boarded the bus and sat down. I went through my, exiting procedure, before pulling away. I put my bus into gear, check my mirrors, and I remember thinking…I can’t see a thing! The mirrors were rain covered and it was very dark out. As I glanced in the mirrors, I saw beaded up water droplets, darkness, and headlights leaving a glare on the pavement, making it even more challenging to see clearly. I released the parking brake and checked traffic, as I prepared to pull forward to continue on. As I started to pull away, I heard a pounding on the back panel of my bus.
My heart started pounding. I still could not see anyone or anything. I had no idea what was happening. Disastrous thoughts started filling my head, when out of the darkness, one of my students, beatific faces, filled the doorway. She bound the stairs and made her way to her seat, as if what had taken place, just a moment ago, had been a, run of the mill occurrence…nothing to see folks, move along… I was simultaneously elated and mindblowingly angry! It was a very good thing my heart was held in place by my ribcage. I did not know my heart was capable of pounding that hard or that fast. Had it not been for my ribcage, I am convinced that my heart would have pounded out of my chest and right on down that cold, dark, rainy road, with me in hot pursuit to retrieve it. I had never been so frightened in all my life, and it was by far the scariest moment of my driving career. My high school students were delivered and the remainder of my routes, were completed without any additional incidents…whew!
When I returned to the bus lot, I went in to my supervisors office and told him about the incident. The simple act of retelling the story shot my heart rate up to, escape mode, once again. I recanted the entire event and told him that her parent needed to be contacted, to eliminate the possibility of that scenario playing out in the future. Quite frankly, I’m not certain my heart could take another encounter like the one I experienced earlier that day.
My students’ parent was called later that morning and was informed of what had taken place. To my utter astonishment, the parent was aware of the incident that had taken place and informed my supervisor that her daughter told her to let her out at the corner so she could catch the bus there. What part of, that plan, didn’t shout…bad idea…really bad idea, as well as a host of other thoughts that raced through my mind. The gravity of the situation was expressed to the parent, and an alternate plan was set in place, if the child were ever to miss the bus in the future.
This incident continues to serve as a sharp reminder to me, that when it comes to kids, expect the unexpected. The unpredictable behavior of our children can manifest itself at any time and at any place, and will generally take place without notice or warning. Even when we are doing all of the right things, at the right time, we cannot determine when a child might act in a capricious manner.
The alternate outcomes that could have taken place that morning, is almost too devastating to contemplate. I shudder to think what may have happened had my student slipped on the side of the road while chasing down my bus as I was pulling away. I am eternally grateful that my nerves were the only thing that got trampled that day.
I share this story with each new driver I train, with the hope that it may serve as a reminder for them to remain vigilant in their efforts to keep our kids safe. I am sharing this story with you, in an effort to alert you to the potential danger that exists. If your child misses their school bus, please inform them to NEVER run after the bus. Your child has an assigned bus stop, and time, for a reason. Our route sheet tells us how many students we can expect to see at any given stop. If your child misses the bus, please call your schools transportation department. Alternate arrangements can be made. Your driver will be informed of the alternate accommodation. This will generate a much safer outcome for you, your child, and your child’s school bus driver. Oh, and our hearts will thank you too! 🙂