Renita Smith, a school bus driver in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and a member of ACE-AFSCME Local 2250, was honored recently by students and school system officials as a hero after she saved 20 children when her bus caught fire September 12.
Smith, a 17-year veteran driver in Prince George’s County, acted quickly when she smelled smoke and then saw flames while driving her daily route in the suburban Maryland neighborhood.
When asked about the ordeal, Smith said that she realized that calling in to her supervisor wasn’t going to help solve the crisis, so she put the radio down and “got my babies up and in a straight line in aisle. I had them hold hands.”
Smith then led all 20 children off the bus and to safety, far away from the smoke and flames. Then, without hesitation, Smith went back onto the bus to make sure no child had been left behind.
“There wasn’t a bus attendant with me that day to do the count,” said Smith. “So I knew I had to go back on the bus to make sure I got all my babies.”
Smith says she was just doing her job. But Prince George’s County School CEO Kevin Maxwell said, “To get off that bus and to go back again to make sure that everybody was safely off the bus is heroic.”
Students that were on the bus that day agreed, calling Smith “our hero,” during an assembly held in her honor.
But Smith brushed off the praise. “As I’m driving that bus, they’re my babies,” she said. “I’m their mom until I drop them off to their biological moms.”