Tweet I bet you think this is about math, don't you? And how it causes so much drama and upset in our house. But it's not. Nope. No math to report about here. Now, remember, it's only the fourth day of school, right? On day four it seems fitting to be sitting at your desk in your office and for some reason feel the need to check your personal cell phone. So you open your drawer that hold your purse which holds the phone and 'lo and behold there's one missed call. And a voicemail. So you check the voicemail because you're curious who might be calling you from this random number you've never seen before. And what you hear is something along the lines of this:
Hello, this is the school bus company and the bus your child was riding on has been involved in an accident and you need to contact me right away at this number.
With my throat in a vice and my stomach on the floor I called back. I've seen pictures of bus accidents on the news. Horrible, horrible pictures.
Someone answers the phone and all I can hear is chaos. I hear people shouting and kids yelling and, well, just noise. "I'm Dotter's mom," I announce. "One moment please - I need you to talk to an EMT." And all I hear is noise.
I sit, cemented to my desk chair in a town ten minutes away from the nearest hospital. And ten minutes away from my child's bus route. My mind scatters and skims across so many thoughts - children in accidents, mothers who never get to hold their children again, healthy children who can no longer walk, or eat, or hug... like a thousand mothers every single day I begin to bargain: "If she's okay I promise to pack her healthiest of lunches and not care about how long my leg hair is and volunteer to bring snacks for her class more often and be kinder to the neighbor lady who still walks her dog through the middle of our yard even though I've asked her not to - I'll do anything! Just please let her be okay!"
As mothers we take this fragile being and hand them willingly out into the world. We trust that day care centers and babysitters and aunts and uncles and grandparents will watch our child as carefully and protectively as we ourselves do. We trust that play dates and sleepovers employ the same cautions as are in our house; with doors locked and double checked before drifting off to sleep. We trust that teachers will be the positive role models of storybooks and Disney movies. We trust that busses don't get in accidents when our children are on them.
After answering what seemed to be a thousand questions to verify who I was and how I was connected to a child on the bus (and protecting the bus company and emergency personnel from a potential HIPAA breach of security lawsuit) I was told my daughter was okay.
A young driver of about 18 was coming over the hill. He was driving a small, white car. The bus that had been travelling in front of him stopped at a bus stop just over the hill. The lights were flashing. The guard rail was down. A line of cars waited patiently in front of the bus for the kids to cross in front. I should tell you this was on a country road, where the posted speed limit is 55 miles per hour, and where the homeowner at that bus stop has tried repeatedly to get the speed limit reduced, due to the dangerous 'blind spot' the hill creates. The young driver came over the hill at about 60 miles per hour and didn't see the bus. As the kids stood up to exit the bus - my daughter being one of them - the car slammed on it's brakes and into the back of the bus. Or, rather, under the back of the bus. The kids walking down the aisle were thrown backwards. And then time stood still.
As my daughter explained to me, after the initial crash, the bus driver yelled out to see if anyone was hurt. Upon realizing no one was, he went to check on the young driver of the car. At this point a dozen little faces were pressed up against the rear windows of the bus, looking down at a shocked, scared 18-year boy, who was pushing down his airbag and crying. Sobbing, actually. I assume he was scared. Startled. Worried. Maybe embarrassed or ashamed. But he was crying before the bus driver got to the car and started yelling at the young driver. Yelling and screaming. At a young driver who had caused an accident and in front of a dozen little faces pressed up against the rear windows of the bus.
No one was badly hurt. But there's a part of me that is really ashamed that the driver of the bus decided yelling and screaming was the right thing to do at that moment. Maybe he, too, was overcome with emotion, but instead of tears he expressed it through anger. That's just really not sitting well with me right now.