For the last nineteen years, I have struggled with many of the events and circumstances that took place April 10, 1997.
The sheer horror and utter grief I experienced the moment I drove around the corner and saw the devastation sitting in the northwest corner of County Rd 39 and County Rd 11 has never left me.
I firmly held to the instruction not to talk about the crash. I didn’t want to say something that would inadvertently damage the insurance company’s case; I had been warned: say something wrong, and we will decline to insure you.
In the nearly two decades since, I have studied every serious crash. I have looked at bus bodies to see if there is damage to the passenger compartment that could hurt kids. I counted how many windows were blown away. I followed many of them through the investigations and studies.
Here’s what I learned: we have constructed a miracle of modern engineering. A school bus is a beautiful piece of equipment. As an industry, we can be so genuinely proud of efforts that have kept students safe and even their parents oblivious to their danger.
But in all that time, the statistics remain unchanged. We know we will kill six students every year.
We need to share what we have learned – I need to share what I learned over the last nineteen years. I need to shape the facts and circumstances into a coherent whole. I need to let others into the dark and scary places I travelled. And I need to tell all that I learned.
I am writing a book about the crash and what happened subsequent to it. I will tell what happened, and then I will tell how I felt about it. I will talk about what I learned about seat belts, how the students and their families recovered, and all those things we did – I did – that helped me cope, but were never shared.
I write now in honor of those three hopeful nine-year olds I think about every day: Kristine, Christopher, and Andrew. I write in admiration for the other ten students and all the families. I write for that young woman I was and the wisdom I gained. I write for a community I treasure that grieved openly when I could not.
After all, knowledge is power.
Scientia potentia est.
Why is everything so much more beautiful in Latin?
There’s a quote I’ve encountered over the years more than once. Serendipity, no? It’s from Macbeth:
Give sorrow words;
The grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’er-fraught heart
And bids it break.
I’ve finally given my sorrow words. They’re brutally painful and ugly in some passages, hauntingly beautiful in others.
If you’d like to read a preview copy, let me know.