- Fact: Approximately 480,000 school buses transport children to and from school (and activities, field trips, etc.) daily.
- Fact: 25 million children — over half of America’s school children — ride a school bus daily.
- Fact: An average of 6 school children are fatally injured inside school buses annually.
- Fact: About 16 children are fatally injured in the loading and unloading zone around school buses annually.
- Fact: The average heart rate of a woman after witnessing the near striking of her child by a school bus is 890,349,834,983,948,938,498.
Okay, so I made up that last one.
This is how the story goes:
Yesterday morning Mia ran out the front door, down our driveway and across the street to wait for the school bus, just like every morning. I stood in the doorway to watch, just like every morning. As the bus approached, I waved and told Mia I love her,
just. like. every. morning.
Yesterday was warm, springlike and misty. The bus driver had his window open. He pulled up to our stop and heard me telling Mia I love her. No, he didn’t hear that, but he heard me say something.
“What?” he yelled.
“Oh, nothing,” I yelled back. “I was just telling her goodbye.”
“Oh, okay,” he said, and started to pull away.
Mia had just crossed the street. There was no way she could have been on the bus at that point, but I couldn’t see her as that mammoth yellow vehicle was blocking my view. A million thoughts ran through my head as I yelled for him to stop. Where was she? Surely she’s not trying to get his attention, to go after it. Surely she knows to back up onto the sidewalk and stay put.
How could he not see her? She was wearing a bright green raincoat and sparkly shoes. Not to mention she’s made of rainbows and moonbeams and stardust. The girl practically glows. HOW COULD HE NOT SEE HER?
He heard me screaming and stopped. “I’m so sorry!” he yelled, shaking his head. “I didn’t see her.” Apparently, what he got from our brief exchange was that Mia wasn’t going to be on the bus this particular morning.
Under the belly of the bus, Mia’s legs, clad in faded jeans and those sparkly shoes, ran the length of the school bus to climb aboard. The doors hissed shut. I saw her silhouette through the windows as the bus driver pulled away once again. It was only after the bus had gone that the reality of what just happened, what could have happened, suckerpunched me in the gut.
Last night Mia and I had a heart-to-heart at bedtime. We went over all the safety precautions of crossing the street and getting on and off the bus and riding the bus. She told me that she had, in fact, tried to get the driver’s attention as she skipped alongside the bus. I explained why this wasn’t a good idea and what to do instead.
She yawned and asked, “You just want me to stand there and yell, Hey! You forgot about me?”
“Yes, I do,” I said. “Well, I want you to stay put on the sidewalk until the bus comes to a complete stop and then you can get on. But if Mr. Carl doesn’t see you and starts to drive away, then yes, I want you to stay where you are. The yelling is optional.”
But there was no more. She had already closed her eyes, so I tiptoed out of her room and closed the door, trailing bits of moonbeam and stardust behind me.