Not all heroes wear capes, some heroes drive school buses.
One of those behind-a-wheel heroes serves for the Cobb County School District. At 5:25 a.m. on an otherwise normal school day, a 911 operator called the Cobb Schools Transportation Department for help. An early morning fire had displaced 22 adults and children who were stranded out in the cold, wet weather. The Red Cross was at least an hour away. So, the Cobb Schools dispatch officer Cathy Watkins made the call to help the family in need.
That’s when Dana Jeske and her yellow bus rode to the rescue. Because sometimes it’s best to let the hero tell their own story, here is the story of how one Cobb Schools bus driver became a hero:
“There are so many emotions that go through one’s head when you are involved in such a sensitive situation as the house fire and family [in need.]
When I arrived at the scene and was able to notify the family, they followed me to the bus. I entered the bus and then the children followed me. As one after another entered the bus, I noticed that they were in their PJ’s several of them only had socks on and a few were actually barefooted.
I was glad that I was able to get the bus warmed up before they got on. I really had nothing to offer them as far as clothing, shoes, or socks. I did, however, have a couple of bottles of water that I was able to give the children so they could share. The poor little two-year-old needed a diaper so desperately bad. An EMT came on the bus so I asked if they might have a diaper so we could change the baby. He replied, ‘no, but Red Cross would.’
After a few moments, the rest of the family came on the bus. There were a total of 22 people who lived in the house, and now [they] were sitting on my bus in silence.
I did get up and started talking to the children and then the Dad started asking me questions about what I did for the county. So, I started to tell him as I was thinking to myself he is just trying to get his mind off of what had just happened to his family. As we were talking, I could see tears welling up in his eyes. My heart broke at this point as I really knew his heart was breaking and there was nothing I could do to help.
He proceeded to tell me that they had just brought home their four-day-old baby who was at the time rushed to the hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. He was quite nervous as it had been about an hour and a half and he had not heard what condition the baby was in. After a while, Red Cross did show up. They were there for a little while, gave the family blankets, provisional kits, water, and toys for the children. I was fortunate enough to be the one to hand out the stuffed animals to the children. They were so happy to get them, and it filled my heart with joy just to see them smiling. Unfortunately, Red Cross did not have a diaper for the baby. The Red Cross did give them some money and instructions on what they needed to do and left.
I suggested to the Dad that maybe we should get in touch with the schools that the children attend and let them know that the children would not be there today. Fortunately, I had a list of all the schools in Cobb County with phone numbers so we started making calls. I also looked at my list where I found the phone number for the homeless liaison and wrote down the information for the Dad to call so maybe they would be able to help with home placement and getting transportation to and from school when the children were ready to go back.
After all of this, I noticed that it was getting a bit quiet on the bus. Some of the older children had fallen asleep in the back of the bus. So, I and one of the adults that lived in the house started gathering stuffed animals and blankets. We used the stuffed animals for pillows and covered the children up, and all 12 of them fell asleep. They were able to sleep for a bit.
One of the high school children came on the bus and said that they were going to transport the younger ones to their grandmother’s house. As we carried them off the bus and gathered the things that were given to them from Red Cross, I was thinking to myself how lucky I was. As I was pulling away, the Dad stopped me. I got off the bus, and he said that the baby was at Scottish Rite and doing good. I could see the relief in his eyes. I gave him a hug and told him how happy I was to hear that and wished him the best. As I said, when a person is involved with something like this, there are so many emotions that happen. I was just happy that I was able to help in any way I could.”
Thanksgiving makes people think about what they are grateful to have. We are grateful to have caring staff members like Dana and her team members in the Cobb Schools Transportation Department. What are you thankful this year?