Wednesday, September 19, 2007


The News Story below was in our local paper this morning... please feel free to pass it on. It is so nice to see a newspaper actually print something like this where someone's prayers WERE truly visibly answered!!! She prayed to God to shield her bus and He DID.

'I hoped to God to shield my bus'
Richmond driver who protected 14 kids tells of harrowing gunfire

Bus 189 took the same route home yesterday, carrying the same precious cargo -- 14 preschool students -- who just the day before were terrorized when their bus was struck by gunfire during a shootout in North Richmond.

This time, there were no stray bullets to punctuate the ride home for the 3and 4-year-old children who spent yesterday at the Head Start program at the North Richmond Community YMCA on Old Brook Road.

"Today was a good day, and we are very glad for that," said Richmond schools spokeswoman Felicia Cosby.

But the woman who drove the bus on Monday, Arlene Smyre, was not behind the wheel yesterday.

Smyre, who kept her students safe during the frantic moments of the daylight shooting near East Ladies Mile Road and Hazelhurst Avenue, was traumatized by the event and said she was unable to work yesterday.

"I feel drained and still shocked over what happened," Smyre, 52, said yesterday over the phone from her eastern Henrico County home off Laburnum Avenue.

"I'm just glad that everybody was OK -- my monitor, my kids. I'm glad there were no tragedies."

She recounted the harrowing ordeal and the actions she took that kept her kids safe.

Smyre said that she had stopped her bus at a stop sign on Hazelhurst and was about to cross East Ladies Mile when she heard the sound of tires spinning furiously.

"I noticed a car driving wild and crazy," she said. "I thought, 'I'm going to have to get my bus out of the way.' Then I heard shots coming."

The car zoomed past Smyre's bus. She made the decision to stay put at the stop sign. She told the children and her bus monitor, a woman she knows only as "Queen," to get down -- and pray.

"I didn't know where the bullets were coming from," Smyre said. "I just prayed, just hoped to God to shield my bus."

Smyre heard what she thought were approximately 10 shots, one of which was followed by a "ping."

"You wonder, 'Where are those bullets going?'" Smyre said. "Where are they going to land?"

When the shooting stopped, Smyre lifted her head. The bus, she said, was quiet.

"If the adults stay calm, you can keep the children calm," said Smyre, an eight-year bus veteran who grew up in Richmond and has two grown sons and daughters.

Instead of crossing East Ladies Mile, Smyre said, she maneuvered her bus down a side street first to check on the children, who, like her, were shaken but unharmed. Then she made her way to Donnan Street to drop off a little girl.

That's when she turned off the bus and got out to take a look. She found a penny-sized bullet hole through a control panel just below the driver's seat.

"My life flashed before my eyes," Smyre said. "It didn't really hit me until I saw that bullet hole."

"The Lord stopped that bullet, cause it didn't go through," she added. "The man upstairs shielded that bus."

Smyre said she's glad she didn't panic during the crisis but is still feeling the emotional effects. She said she plans to return to work in a couple of days.

"I'm getting myself back together," she said. "The sooner I get back out there, the better I can get over it."

As Smyre recovered, police investigators yesterday continued to piece together the events that led to the 3:10 p.m. shootout Monday.

A man wounded in the shooting was released from VCU Medical Center with a non-life-threatening injury. Police were also looking for a teal green Honda Accord that fled the scene shortly after the exchange.

As of yesterday evening, no charges had been filed in the shooting, which police believe stemmed from an argument.

Cosby said that in light of Monday's incident, officials were stepping up efforts to publicize and prepare for the school system's previously scheduled "Safe Schools, Safe Communities" forum Oct. 4 at Boushall Middle School.

Monday's shooting incident, she said, "just underscores the importance of getting all of the community together. It's not a Richmond Public Schools incident -- it's something in the community. But it's something in the community that our kids face, and that we have to deal with on a regular basis."
Contact Jim Nolan at (804) 649-6061 or

Times-Dispatch research assistant Jennifer Perilli contributed to this report.

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