Close call for local students returning from Florida

May 10, 2010 8:27:24 AM PDT
It was a scary situation. Children from Pershing Middle School were returning home when their bus caught fire miles away from home. It caught fire in Lake Charles, Louisiana, as the kids were on their way back to Houston from Florida.

While firefighters in Lake Charles tried to cool down the shell of the charter bus, dozens of Pershing parents were getting unexpected calls.

"Your mind just starts to race," said parent Monica Manzano.

Members of the boys band had just watched their bus catch fire after a tire blowout.

"The tires were in flames," recalled student Bryan Baker. "It was crazy."

More than 30 members of the Pershing band were coming home from a competition at Disney World. The students and their chaperones all ran off the bus, but left behind everything from school work and books that blew down the interstate, to clothes and instruments burned far beyond use.

But that didn't matter to many parents, who waited impatiently Sunday evening in the school parking lot, never more happy to see the boys' bus and the girls' bus pulling in together.

"I finally get to give him a hug," said parent John Janis.

"Material things, they come and go, but knowing that he is home OK, that's all that matters, especially on Mother's Day," said Manzano.

And while the boys got off the bus empty handed, they certainly hadn't left the band competition that way.

"We won a competition and we lost one of our trophies," said band member Bryan Baker.

"The kids were asking about that trophy that melted and I said, 'You know, I have 67 trophies and they got off the bus,'" said Pershing Band Director Richard Smith. "That's all that matters."

And every parent that left the southwest Houston parking lot Sunday night with their child feels the same way.

After the fire, the students waited at the Lake Charles Sheriff's Department until another bus could pick them up and bring them back to Houston.


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