bus

A school bus ride that changed everything

Four months after a Houston school bus crashed,  killing two students and injuring two others, I circled back to see how the teenage survivors were doing.

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The school bus lurks down the street from Brandon and Lakeisha Williams’ second-floor apartment. In the darkness before dawn, its amber lights pop off and on, off and on, off and on.

In a few minutes, it will be pickup time. The bus will lumber forward to the apartment entrance. Brandon and Lakeisha will trot down the rickety wooden stairs and out of the courtyard to climb aboard.

For Lakeisha, those are long minutes, hard minutes. She is nervous, as she has been for weeks leading up to this moment on the first Monday of February.

It has been four months since Lakeisha stepped on a bus headed to the Furr High School campus, four months since the accident. Four months of therapy, surgeries and home school, of recovery and relapse. She’s missed a homecoming game and high school dances, endured headaches and hospital stays, wrangled nightmares and crying jags.

She tugs at Brandon, the twin brother with whom she has been through so much. She would have him – as always – for support. And she would have her earbuds, to help defuse her anxieties in a stream of music.

At 6:29 a.m., the yellow bus serving Route 3162 pulls up to the stop.

At 6:31, Lakeisha and Brandon, dressed in matching Trukfit T-shirts, walk gingerly toward the vehicle.

Brandon gets on first, sliding into the front right seat, where he can keep an eye on the speedometer.

Lakeisha, following by a few paces, pauses for a split second. She draws a deep breath, juts out her chin and clambers up the steps.

She plops into the row behind her brother, by a window under the emergency exit sign.

The interior lights flash on, illuminating Lakeisha as she rummages around the seat. Searching, frantically, under the cushions, below her legs, by her back.

Then, as the bus jerks to life and the lights are extinguished, Lakesha hops to a spot across the aisle.

The first seat belt did not work – and she is not about to take any chances. Not after the last time.

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