When bus driver Renita Smith went to work Monday afternoon in College Park, Maryland, she expected it to be just another day. However, shortly after Smith started her engine and made her way out of the parking lot of Glenarden Woods Elementary, things went from ordinary to terrifying.
As she later told NBC News, the brake light indicator illuminated on her dash. And just moments later, orange flames were engulfing the bus — which was full of 20 terrified school kids, all on their way home.
Immediately though, Smith sprung into action. “I opened my door, took off my seat belt, and I got my babies off that bus,” she told NBC News. But in order to get all 20 of them to safety, she had to enter the flaming bus multiple times — plus once more after everyone was off, just to ensure all of the kids were accounted for.
“I ran back onto the bus to make sure that every seat was clear,” said Smith.
Thankfully, there were no reported injuries and those living nearby came to the aid of Smith and the kids on her bus quickly. But of course, the incident could have ended very differently were it not for the bus driver’s quick thinking and selfless action.
Were it not for Smith’s fearlessness or her bravery.
And it seems the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department (not to mention the parents of the kids on her bus) agree, if this tweet is any indication:
The story started going viral earlier this week, after one of the student’s parents posted a photo of Smith on Facebook, praising her for everything she did to keep those kids safe. It’s since been shared over 1,700 times.
“A big THANK YOU to our school bus driver Renita Smith who just saved 20 elementary school kids from a bus fire that completely destroyed the bus,” wrote Fazlul Kabir on September 12. “Not only Renita took each one of the 20 kids from the bus one by one, but also went into the empty bus again to check if everyone was out, while it was still burning. “I am a mom of two kids. It’s my job to save them” she told me. The bus caught fire on 51st ave near Hollywood road about an hour ago. Thankfully, all the school kids went home safe.”
But while her community — and the entire Internet — may be applauding her heroic efforts, it seems Smith doesn’t consider herself to be a hero at all. Instead, she sees her actions as the normal, instinctual actions of a woman and a mom — a mom who knows that when any kids are in her care, they are just as important as her own biological babe.
“As I’m driving that bus, they’re my babies,” she told the outlet. “I’m their mom until I drop them off to their biological moms. I have people calling me a hero … [but I’m not] I’m just a mom.”
And while Smith makes a fair point — I mean, I hope everyone who ever cares for my daughter shares this same sentiment — that doesn’t mean she isn’t amazing and awe-inspiring for doing so. And it doesn’t make her any less of a hero. Instead, it makes her an everyday hero. An everyday hero with a heart of gold.
Speaking with Babble, Smith says the outpouring of emotion this story has had on strangers all over the country has been nothing short of amazing. “I am so overwhelmed with joy and love in my heart [for the support] that everyone has showed me,” she says.