The images coming out of Chattanooga, Tennessee this morning, where a school bus full of children appears to have hit a tree, rolled over and split apart, are gut-wrenching. I’ve been glued to the news reading reports of children leaving the wreckage, dazed and traumatized, of children who haven’t yet been reunited with their parents, and of children who would never see their parents again.
These images are hard to look at. I can’t begin to imagine the pain and heartache that must be felt there, but I do feel pain. News of the crash has affected me—and many that I know— deeply because I work in the transportation department of a large school district.
In those images, I see a bus that looks like many of the buses coming out of our terminals and kids that could have been any of the kids we transport.
I’m not a school bus driver, I want to make that clear. I am a bus assistant. I work primarily on special needs buses, where there are fewer children but often much more extreme behaviors and dynamics. I have been working here for over 10 years, doing the same work, often with the same kids, year after year. I take the job seriously and I think of all children we transport as precious. I strive to advocate for safety and care in all that my coworkers and I do.
Everyone I work with takes the job seriously and crashes like this shake us up. This scare us.
Working on school buses isn’t easy and I think the general public has very little idea of how difficult and thankless the work is. We transport up to 77 children at time. Seventy-seven loud, rowdy, and often defiant kids. We transport in the summer heat and the winter cold. We transport on icy roads and around other drivers who think they can out run and out maneuver the bus. The parents never appreciate us enough and the teachers never consider us for a second.
We transport in the summer heat and the winter cold. We transport on icy roads and around other drivers who think they can out run and out maneuver the bus. The parents never appreciate us enough and the teachers never consider us for a second.
It isn’t easy work and those that do it, do it because they are passionate about it.
We consider ourselves the first face of the school district the child sees. In many cases, we are the first adult the child sees in their day. It is up to us to keep them safe, to keep them ready to learn, and to be a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear when they feel most alone in this world.
We love our kids and we love what we do and it worries us when on of our own act recklessly.
Today my thoughts are with Chattanooga, with the parents, students, first responders, and the transportation staff who are picking up the pieces of their lives today. I hope we can all learn something from this. I hope that I never have to see images like this again.
I hope that the school bus will continue to be a place for children to have fun, to feel safe, and to know they are cherished.
I started a weekly-ish newsletter on life, love, and suffering. You can sign up here: https://tinyletter.com/zenandpi (:
Featured image via the Chattanooga Fire Department