Heroes: A driver collapses, and a 10-year-old saves a bus full of schoolkids.
Just after lunch on oct. 3, Dawn Littlefound a message on her office answering-machine. It was from Ken Russell, principal of her kids' school. "Call as soon as you can," Russel told her. "I want to tell you something good that Larry hasdone."
Little was still unprepared for Russell's report: Larry had singlehandedly stopped a runaway school bus and very possibly saved the lives of 19 children. "l've never, never in my life had asurprise like this", she says.
It all began at 7:15 a.m. in St. Louis, Missouri, when Little, 30, waved goodbye to her two youngest children - Larry Champagne and his brother Jerrick, 9, both ofwhom participate in the city's voluntary school-desegregation program. Thirty-five minutes into their 20-mile bus trip, the routine ride suddenly became anything but routine. Driver Ernestine Blackman,42, who doctors say suffered a major stroke, abruptly fell to the floor. Bus three, with 19 children ages 6 to 11 aboard, went careening1 across three crowded westbound lanes of U.S. Highway 40. Someof the kids started sobbing. "I thought we were going to die", says Larry. "The bus started swaying2 side to side and hit the guardrail twice. That made everyone fall and hit the window. I thought wewere going to crash."
Not if Larry could help it. Seeing Blackman lying helpless in the stairwell, the intrepid fifth grader sprang from his seat and grabbed the steering wheel. "I ran up and juststomped on the brake," says Larry. The bus came to a halt, and Larry called to three of his friends - Angelo McKnight, 11, Angelo's brother Gregory, 9, and Imani Butler, 9 - to tend to Blackman. "Ineeded help from some of the big kids," he says. A truck rear-ended the bus, but did no real damage.
Alerted by a motorist with a cellular phone, ambulances soon arrived. The children were teary but...