Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hero On the Bus

I heard a story on Sunday night that really had me choked up.
Not many news stories HAVE had me like this unless I knew the person,
but this one was very different.

Most of you (especially those living in Utah/Idaho) have probably heard THIS story this week.

After I couldn't get this band instructor and her family off my mind,
I received a email from my INCREDIBLE uncle Joe.

He writes a column for a section in the newspaper called ValueSpeak.
His kids went/have gone to American Fork High school so I am sure they knew this amazing woman.
Uncle Joe sends all of the family his article every week and I would really like to share this one because it really got to me.

I recommend reading it.


A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


They’re calling her a hero. They
are correct – she is. But maybe not for the reason they’re giving.

least, not entirely.

Her name was Heather, and she was a teacher.
Bright, articulate, hard-working, creative and fun, she probably would have been
successful at anything she put her mind to. Certainly, she could have made more
money than she was making as a secondary school teacher. But she was passionate
about teaching. Most especially, she was passionate about teaching music.

And she was good at it. Young people responded to her, as they usually
do to adults who sincerely like them and who clearly want them to be happy and
successful. They liked her because she liked them, and they listened to her
because they knew she cared.

Heather was part of a team of dedicated
teachers who helped to create a championship-caliber high school marching band.
This band was – and still is – the toast of its region, and if it isn’t the best
high school band in the United States, it is certainly in the discussion. Most
who know and respect the band attribute their success to visionary leadership,
talented kids and an extraordinary work ethic. Heather was deeply involved in
all of that, and she savored every moment she spent with her kids.

weekend, for example, was spent at a marching band competition in a neighboring
state. They won the competition – as usual – with Heather alternately stressing,
encouraging and cheering from the sidelines. After celebrating their victory,
they loaded up the four buses required to carry the entire band and started for
home at about 8:30 in the evening, with Heather sitting right up front of the
bus carrying “her” kids: the woodwind section.

About an hour into the
three-hour trip home something happened. Exactly WHAT happened is still a little
unclear. According to those who were on the bus there was a medical problem with
the bus driver. Heather called out to the driver as the bus began to careen off
the side of the road. When it was clear there was a problem, Heather leapt to
the driver’s side and tried to take control of the steering wheel as the bus
bounced wildly over treacherous terrain. She wasn’t able to get the bus back
onto the road, but at least she was able to keep it from going further out into
the darkness away from the road. Still, the terrain, the speed and the steering
struggles proved to be too much for the heavily loaded vehicle, and it
eventually tipped over on its side before sliding to a stop.

As you
might expect, the students on the bus were terrified. It was chaotic and
traumatic, and a number of them were injured in the accident – thankfully, none

None, that is, except for Heather. As she battled to control
the bus she placed herself in a precarious and vulnerable position. As the
vehicle lurched and reeled and began to roll, she was thrown through the
windshield. Adults from the other buses and emergency personnel did everything
they could, but eventually the students had to be informed that Heather had

The loss of their teacher and friend was overwhelming to the
students, especially after it became clear that Heather’s efforts to steer the
bus back to safety had prevented the vehicle from crashing into a deep, rocky
ravine a few yards from where the bus finally settled.

“There’s no
telling how many lives she saved,” one highway patrol officer said at the scene.
“If that bus had gone into the ravine . . .” The thought was too horrible to

So, yes – Heather’s actions last Saturday evening were heroic.
I gratefully acknowledge that. But in my mind, that isn’t what makes her a hero.
As impressive as what she did on the bus is, I’m even more impressed by the
simple fact that she was on the bus. She was there for her students. She
responded when she was needed. And she made a difference in their lives – a
difference they will remember as long as they live.

I think it’s that
way with most teachers. Sure, there are bad apples in the teaching profession,
just as there are bad lawyers, bad doctors, bad engineers and – heaven forbid –
bad newspaper columnists. But my experience suggests that teachers teach because
they care. They want to be there for their students. They are anxious and
willing to respond whenever they are needed. And their greatest desire is to
make a positive difference in the lives of their students.

When you
choose to be a teacher you’re not choosing a path that will lead to fame or
fortune. In fact, you are likely choosing to live a simple, quiet life. But you
are choosing a path that matters in the lives of students and their families –
past, present and future.

And that choice, to me, is heroic.

the classroom, the practice field, the auditorium, the laboratory, the

Or on the bus.


brittany michelle said...

that's a touching story, and i don't even know how to respond to it. i hope i can be a teacher like her, dedicated up until the last moment.

Mrs. Black said...

Thanks for posting this Andee.

Karilyn said...

Heather is a sister of a cousin's daughter.

I know that might seem convoluted, but... my cousin's daughter is best friend's with Heather's sister.

(maybe it is easier understood the second time stated a bit differently?)

Good people. Very good people.

Heather's mom was in Hawaii when this happened, the family was all in different places when they each got word about the accident. They were each alone with their thoughts and memories, and had to travel to gather all together in the next day.

Good people live as angels on this earth in physical bodies, and they get to continue on that same path when they are taken back to Heaven where they get to be surrounded by more~ Something to look forward to, but it surely doesn't make the matter any easier for any involved.

She touched many many lives, and will never be forgotten, that's for sure~

Makes you appreciate each day as we are given, and just know that your influence is felt by many -- just as much as Heather's. You are a very special young lady, Andee, keep on keepin' on~

Krystal said...

as a teacher, this story was extra hard to hear... Thank you for posting this article... I think too many teachers have forgotten the reason why they became teachers in the first place, and I see it all around me every day at work. I appreciated the author's comment that said:

When you choose to be a teacher you’re not choosing a path that will lead to fame or fortune. In fact, you are likely choosing to live a simple, quiet life. But you
are choosing a path that matters in the lives of students and their families – past, present and future.

I couldn't have said it better myself. That is why I am a teacher, because it is something that matters... I matter to my students, and they matter to me.

Kourtni said...


Heather was an amzing lady and I did have the wonderful chance of knowing her so thank you for posting this! Thank you to your uncle for writing such an amazing article!! Thank you dear!!

Adam and Andrea Daveline said...

Andee, you are such a remarkable young lady and I am so glad to celebrate this other remarkable woman's life. Thank you for posting!