I saw the actual fire, the bus driver’s dashboard and her steering wheel, and Ashes. The windows had melted off. What was left of them was black bits of ash.
A parent always worries about their child until they return home safe and sound. From school, students at Glen Arden Woods Elementary knew they were in excellent care even before they made it to class. Thanks to bus driver Renee Smith, her natural maternal instincts and care came in handy every day, especially when the unthinkable jeopardize everyone on board. Reneta Smith is a mother of two living in Maryland. She took up a job as a school bus driver back in 2014, and while many in her profession saw driving as simply a way to earn money, for Rene, it became so much more. Although she struggles living paycheck to paycheck, she loves her job. The young elementary school students that she drives mean the world to her. As a mother herself, she understands the importance of connecting with the kids. From the moment the children arrive on her bus till the moment they step off, she considers each and every one of them as her babies and she’s willing to do whatever she needs to take care of them. She proved her sense of love, care, and responsibility one fateful day. One afternoon on her usual route through Prince George County in 2016, Renita was put to the test.
She was nearly finished with driving with a total of 20 elementary students on the bus. A sudden alert hinted there was trouble. While driving to her next stop, a warning light on the bus’s dashboard went off.
After I dropped off my third stop, I proceeded onto my stop sign, which was not even a block, and my bus started beeping so I stopped and I was going to call it in.
Reneda didn’t notice anything concerning at the time so she believed she could make it to her next stop and inspect the problem there, but she wouldn’t get that chance.
But when I looked in the side-view mirror too cold, I saw fire.
The bus hadn’t even made it a full block when the children began screaming. Renita was stunned to see what was happening in the back of the bus. A terrible fire was beginning to spread and so it was that dark fumes were filling up in the back of the bus. The fire didn’t start to move immediately, but Rene Smith did.
So that’s when I opened up the door and proceeded to get every last one of them.
All the children were beginning to panic. One girl had to calm herself down to console her brother who broke out into tears. Raneda, although scared herself, was calm and collected. She stopped a bus. She had a plan.
I ran back in to make sure that every last one of the children was off the bus. I walked that whole bus.
Meanwhile, residents on the block rushed out of their houses to witness the horrific sight of a bus engulfed in smoke. The bystanders didn’t approach too closely. One local resident was City Council member Feslil Kabir, who watched Renita become a hero. Reneta calmly but swiftly guided the children off the bus. One local homeowner welcomed the kids to their backyard, far away from the fiery vehicle. Rather than join the kids, Renita paused and sprinted back to the bus. She needed to know for sure that no child was left behind.
And I checked every seat, and when I got to the last step, the whole bus went up.
She needed to know for sure that no child was left behind. She checked each and every seat, even the ones in the back where the fire was growing stronger. One of the county residents recorded Reneta’s heroic actions. Fortunately, unscathed, Reneta finally joined her babies and they hugged and cried together. Everyone returned home safely. This, however, was not going to be the end of Reneda’s story. Sometime later, Renee Smith received an award from the County President, Dr. Kevin Maxwell, in a special ceremony. It was a plaque recognizing Renee’s incredible courage and heroism. A second ceremony at City Hall was had, where Rene was given another plaque, along with a standing ovation to give a special thank you to Reneta. Glen Arden Woods Elementary School held an event in the school’s auditorium, while the students she saved gave her one rose each to show their love and appreciation. A choir sang Wind Beneath My Wings to the very teary ironita. The wider world took notice, too. Paul Kabir, who witnessed the incident, was so touched by Renee’s heroic acts that he took to social media to spread the word about the heroic bus driver. Her life would never be the same right away.
The Facebook and Twitter posts went viral, catching the attention of multiple news outlets, including CNN. In one interview, Reneda Smith reflected on what made her so strong that day. Upon watching the camera footage of her heroic actions, Rene was shocked, even questioning, what was I thinking? When it came to the children? Though, she had only one thing in mind.
So I put the radio back down. I got my babies and I got off the bus.
At this point, Renee’s name and the story had been heard all across the nation. One more big-name would come into her life and ask for an interview. It was famed comedian, actress, and TV personality Ellen DeGeneres who had a special treat for Renee. Ellen DeGeneres flew Reneta out to Los Angeles to appear on her show. Although Renee’s humble nature tried to downplay her heroism, Ellen wouldn’t allow that. After telling her story, Reneta was given a check for $20,000.
This is the inspiring story that we’re talking about. When Shutterfly wants to help people they care about, people who help care about their communities. We want to give you a check for $20,000.
The Smith family was so proud. Unlike everyone else, who knew of her story? Renita’s two boys were not surprised by her mom’s actions.