The pupil transportation community often emphasizes the fact that school buses are the safest way for students to get to and from school. This, of course, is their primary objective.
But the big, yellow bus also proves to be a sign of safety for the public in general, particularly in times of crisis.
Case in point: When bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, runners and spectators scrambled to escape the chaos. School bus drivers from AA Transportation quickly stepped up to evacuate people from the site.
It’s hard to imagine what it would have felt like to be on Boylston St. during that act of terror, but the sight of the familiar, yellow American school bus was surely a beacon of safety and provided some measure of reassurance for many panicked people.
As AA Transportation President Ron Ernenwein wrote about the drivers, “The area they were working in was complete mayhem, and with their professionalism, this group brought composure and calm for the folks that they transported.”
About a month after the Boston bombings, on May 20, a tornado that was over a mile wide at its peak hit Moore, Okla.
Officials said that 24 people were killed, and hundreds were injured. Among the worst devastation was at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which the tornado leveled with many students, staff members and parents inside. Officials have said that seven children in the school were killed.
Again, yellow buses were used to help out those in need.
Durham School Services collected donations across the Midwest for the Oklahoma tornado victims. Staff filled buses with disaster relief items — bottled water, sanitary wipes, diapers, etc. — and several Durham drivers volunteered to transport the supplies to the affected areas.
Also, The Oklahoman reported that students from Guthrie, Okla., brought a school bus loaded with supplies to Moore.
Evacuation and aid
Last fall’s Hurricane Sandy was another case in which school buses provided vital support and aid.
Management and staff from the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation assisted in mobilizing hundreds of buses from the city’s contractors to evacuate people in low-lying areas to shelters before the storm.
Another contractor, New Jersey’s B.R. Williams Inc., collected and delivered 17 busloads of goods to Sandy victims.
As noted in our April/May 2013 issue, Ohio’s Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools sent buses to protect elderly and sick patients from the cold when their nursing center was evacuated.
All of these stories are further evidence of the need to protect school buses from budget cuts. They are essential not only as a safe and reliable ride for students, but also as a key lifeline in case of emergency.