Who would have thought that boarding a bus would end in a nightmare for a track and field runner?
Recently a Middle College Prep distance runner found himself sitting two rows from the back of a bus heading for a Crosstown League dual meet.
For some reason, he was nervous. His teammates, his friends, helped him through his anxiety by non-stop chattering and laughing. They attempted to distract him from the uncomfortable memories of a tragic accident just one month ago.
I’m sure, by now, you have heard of the charter bus that was taking 48 people, mostly students, to a weekend tour of Humboldt State University in Northern California. They were heading to the University as part of an orientation program for students from low-income families to see the campus of the school that had already accepted them for enrollment for the fall.
As the 17-year old sat in his seat, he remembered sitting in the same seat on that tragic bus ride just a month ago. He remembered wearing his neon green running shoes, shorts and a sweater over a flannel shirt.
He also remembered seeing people running; he remembered the fire on the bus. He sat in the same seat thinking about the FedEx tractor-trailer coming the other way that veered across the freeway median and struck the bus head-on.
It was about 5:30 pm. They were on the Interstate 5 heading north. Ten people were killed, including five students. Finally, he took a deep breath. He had survived, but some of his friends had not.
The 17-year old runner remembered that right before the crash he heard people saying, “Watch out.” As he stood up to see what was going on, he saw the truck coming directly towards them. He saw the truck hit the bus. When that happened, he flew two or three rows forward and hit his chin.
He thought for a minute that everything would be okay – the two drivers would exchange information and then they would be on their way. That was not the case. He saw the fire. He used his head and something told him to open another emergency window. He yelled to everyone, “this way”. He jumped out and people followed.
The runner spent the night in a hospital where he received stitches on his chin. His jaw was injured and he had cuts and bruises on his legs. He also had a concussion. The next day he flew home and was greeted at the airport by his mother, uncle, two brothers and a cousin.
After many tears and hugs, he said he was happy to be home.
He returned to school and tried to get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible; however, he started having trouble sleeping, getting into a car, and he missed two weeks of physical training while recovering from his injuries.
Finally, this most recent bus trip came about and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to participate in the trip. He put on his seat belt and allowed his friends and teammates to distract him during the bus ride. He got through the ride with the help of his friends, who will always be there for him.
He loves to run and plans to attend Humboldt State in the fall; he’s going to major in marine biology.
I applaud this young man for his bravery and his dreams.
If you or a loved one is involved in a bus accident or any type of accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for the help you need and deserve.