The accident involving the FedEx truck and charter bus just north of Sacramento has shaken me to the core. This kind of trip, high school students getting to go see a school, a business, an institution, was what I did with my students for 21 years. Nineteen times a year we got on a bus and went somewhere. Trips in town,or locally, were taken on school district busses; those out of town trips were taken on charter busses.
Before every trip, I would prepare the students as to what we would see, how they should dress, how to behave, when we would leave and when we would be back. One thing I never discussed was how to handle an accident, especially one of this magnitude. The bus drivers would quickly tell the students, before we pulled away, about the emergency exits and how to access them and what to do should something happen to prevent the driver from performing his duties. Almost all of these drivers were highly conscientious and well trained. Many of the drivers would request our trips because the students were polite and well-behaved and the teachers on time and knew where to go. Our trips were successful.
As Terry and I sit in front of the television, watching the film footage of this horrendous accident in Orland, we reach for one another, thinking the unthinkable–this could have been us. Terry often accompanied us on out of town trips. I would pray before each trip, asking for safety and good behavior. Once we returned to school, and stepped off of the bus, all of the teachers would say, “Thank God, we did it again. Another trip done.” And then we went to our cars and drove home, safe and sound. The parents picked up their kids and took them home.
Those parents and loved ones who will not be taking their child home weigh heavily on my mind. The young couple who was chaperoning the trip to visit a college at the other end of the state will not get to see their own children go on such a trip. They didn’t even make it down the aisle to say “I do.” All, in a moment, gone. The thought keeps running through my mind, “It could have been us.”