A day that started like most any other day for the parents and students of Bus 1194 turned into the kind of morning that we prepare for in Grayson County Schools but hope we’ll never have to face.
Only eleven seconds passed between impact and stopping, and what could have turned to chaos was quickly averted by the professional and caring actions of everyone involved in the aftermath.
The rapid dispatch of district Transportation Director Arnold Hack and Assistant Superintendent Doug Robinson to the scene was the first of a series of carefully honed procedures they would follow as they coordinated both safety measures and overall district response. They would continue throughout the day - Hack at Clarkson Elementary, later at Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center; Robinson on-site, then at the hospital to provide support for our students and their families.
First responders worked quickly to check students and drivers, control the crowd and traffic, and provide comfort and care to the injured.
EMS and the EMTs on call that morning moved swiftly to check everyone on site, ultimately transporting four students and a driver to Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center.
The Grayson County Sheriff’s Department managed the scene with thoughtful authority. Detective Kelsey, in particular, worked throughout the day to keep everyone up to date on additional details and numbers.
The Clarkson Fire Department was meticulous in its response, even going to Clarkson Elementary to continue to provide support, staying until they were confident in the well-being of everyone involved.
Our quality nursing staff, called to Clarkson to continue assessing the uninjured, provided additional, professional reassurance to staff, parents and students alike.
The team at Clarkson Elementary was tremendous. They worked diligently and swiftly to contact all parents, provide food and comfort alike. Teachers, aides and front office staff all knew just how to comfort and reassure “their kids,” since every child on that bus was either a current Clarkson student or had been some point in their educational career.
At Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center, students and parents were met by medical and administrative staff from all levels, including CEO Wayne Meriwhether and Director of Marketing Bill Oldham. Constantly attentive to needs whether food, a reassuring word or updates on the injured, they stayed in the emergency area throughout the day, as additional children were brought in to the emergency area. They continued to work with these families and our staff until they themselves were fully satisfied that we were satisfied.
All of our bus drivers are continually trained to handle any type of emergency from medical to hazmat to weather. Each year they are required by the state to undergo eight hours of training, which is in addition to Professional Development training by the district.
They are equipped to handle the unexpected, but in those precious seconds when the right decisions must be made to protect our “precious cargo,” mind and body must work perfectly in sync. In this instance, everything was handled to the letter, and students have called driver Sherry Gipson a “hero.” Her actions along with those of monitor Monica Smith in the moments during and after the collision made the difference in a safe outcome.
Throughout the day from start to stop there was a sense of cooperation, compassion and teamwork. All parties knew exactly what to do in this situation and no one rested until they had done that very thing - to the very best of their ability. While everyone involved, from first responders to law enforcement to medical and school staff, is trained to work together in these types of situations, there’s always a possibility that practice can translate very differently in a real life situation.