‘Bus Driver From Heaven’ Saves Students From Fire With T-Shirt

Tiffany Meier
By Tiffany Meier
November 19, 2018US News
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As Paradise burned down from the raging Camp Fire, one bus driver used his T-shirt to save the lives of two dozen students.

Kevin McKay, a few months into his job for the Paradise Unified School District, drove in the middle of gridlocked dark roads amidst destructive fire. Nearly two dozen elementary school children were on board with him.

“It was just time to go,” McKay said.

Most of the elementary school children had already been picked up but 22 remained, as well as two teachers.

“My first thought was just getting them on the bus and getting them out of there because the sky was really menacing,” Mary Ludwig, one of the teachers, said.

Flames danced just out of reach and ash darkened the sky around them. Smoke began to seep into the bus. Some of the children became drowsy from inhaling the smoke.

“I ran to the front of the bus and I said Kevin these kids are telling me they’re tired right now. And Kevin, without even thinking about it, took his shirt off and tore it into little pieces…to make filters for these kids to breathe,” Abbie Davis, the second teacher on the bus, said.

The fragments of T-shirt, doused in water, allowed the children to breathe without inhaling the deadly smoke.

It took five long harrowing hours for them to reach safety. There were parts where it seemed it would never happen.

“Just being gridlocked—trapped in the road. There was nowhere for us to go. The traffic wasn’t moving. And then our last stretch too, I think that was the—that was the moment I thought that we might not make it out,” Davis said.

“It was awful. I just felt like this was never going to end,” said Charlotte Merz, a 4th-grade student.

But make it they did, even if their homes did not. Davis, McKay, and Merz all lost their homes.

The homes might be gone, but everyone on the bus survived.

“We had the bus driver from heaven,” Ludwig said.

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