Local bus drivers show support to those impacted by deadly crash
ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WEAR) —
As we are in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we often add a lot of stress over things being the biggest and best. This story is a reminder that it's the little things that can mean the most.
"It was an accident, school bus, three children in Rochester, Indiana were killed. This happened on October 30th,” explained Escambia County School Bus Assistant Joyce Arnold.
That tragedy touched all us as it unfolded on national news. It especially struck the heart of a school bus assistant; a grandmother, a thousand miles away, in Pensacola.
Joyce Arnold knew that pain.
"I can imagine because I had the loss of my granddaughter getting killed at the age of six. Her name was Skyler, Skyler Joyce Johnson. It was June 16, 2006. My daughter was bringing them to me to keep for the summer. They were en route here, the weather was bad. They were in Tyler, Texas. A vehicle hit them, they flipped, and another car hit them and Skyler was thrown from the car,” Joyce explained.
Another of Joyce's granddaughter's was paralyzed in that accident. Joyce is the Escambia County school bus assistant for driver Becky VanMatre. The thought of those three children in Indiana; the tie to her own pain, the connection to her own job; Joyce says she had to do something.
She decided to reach out to the mother, "Someone came to her home to say to her, ‘They're gone.’ And can you imagine? Three children gone. Your three children are gone."
It was a simple thing, but something within her reach to do. Joyce enlisted Becky's help and they bought cards and set out to get other bus drivers and assistants to sign them.
Becky was readily on board, "We made it a point to try to get to the schools in time too, so we would have time to get the drivers to sign them."
Transportation Director Steve Harrell wasn't surprised by Joyce's efforts, "When I heard that she was doing this, I thought, ‘Yeah, or course she's doing that because that's her spirit. That's who she is.’”
Joyce's manager, Shannon McCulley, shared one of the passages from the cards, "May God give you strength when yours is gone. May His mercy carry you on.’”
Joyce contacted Indiana TV station ABC57 and they will deliver the cards. The station was so touched by this act of kindness from far away, they aired a story about her efforts.
Accompanied by the handwritten words of faith and condolence, Joyce hopes this small gesture will bring some measure of comfort to a hurting mom like it did for her when she lost her Skyler. "My prayer is for this mom and that people will continue to reach out to her and not let her be lost in the wind."