Bus Driver On Routine Route Hears Children Screaming, Looks Back To Alarming Sight

A parent always worries about their child until they return home safe and sound from school. Students at Glenarden Woods Elementary knew they were in excellent care even before they made it to class, thanks to bus driver Renita Smith. Her natural maternal instincts and care came in handy everyday, especially when the unthinkable jeopardized everyone on board.

Renita Smith is a mother of two, living in Maryland. She took up a job as a school bus driver back in 2014, and while many in her profession saw driving simply a way to earn money, for Renita, it became so much more.


Although she struggles living paycheck-to-paycheck, she loves her job. The young elementary school students that she drives mean the world to her. As a mother herself, she understands the importance of connecting with the kids.

From the moment the children arrive on her bus til the moment they step off, she considers each and every one of them as her babies, and she’s willing to do whatever she can to take care of them. She proved her sense of love, care, and responsibility one fateful day.

One afternoon, on her usual route through the Prince George county in 2016, Renita was put to the test. She was nearly finished with driving, with a total of 20 elementary students on the bus. A sudden alert hinted there was trouble.

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While driving to her next stop, a warning light on the bus’ dashboard went off. Renita didn’t notice anything concerning at the time, so she believed she could make it to her next stop and inspect the problem there. But she wouldn’t get that chance.

Wikimedia Commons/Anatoliy-024

The bus hadn’t even made it a full block when the children began to scream. Renita was stunned to see what was happening in the back of the bus: A terrible fire was beginning to spread!


The children shouted, “Miss Bus Driver, it smells like smoke!” And so it was that dark fumes were filling up in the back of the bus. The fire didn’t start to move immediately, but Renita Smith did.


The children were beginning to panic. One girl had to calm herself down to console her brother, who broke out in tears. Renita, although scared herself, was calm and collected. She stopped the bus. She had a plan.

Meanwhile, residents on the block rushed out of their houses to witness the horrific sight of a bus engulfed in smoke. The bystanders did not approach too closely. One local resident was city council member, Fazlul Kabir, who watched Renita become a hero.

YouTube/Mark Brady

Renita calmly but swiftly guided the children off of the bus. One local homeowner welcomed the kids to their backyard, far away from the fiery vehicle. Rather than join the kids, Renita paused… and sprinted back to the bus.

The Dwelling Place

She needed to know for sure that no child was left behind. She checked each and every seat, even the ones in the back where the fire was growing stronger. One of the county residents recorded Renita’s heroic actions.

Facebook/Fazlul Kabir

Fortunately unscathed, Renita finally joined her babies, and they hugged and cried together. Everyone returned home safely. This, however, was not going to be the end of Renita’s story.


Some time later, Renita Smith received an award from the president of the county, Dr. Kevin Maxwell, in a special ceremony. It was a plaque recognizing Renita’s incredible courage and heroism. A second ceremony at City Hall was had where Renita was given another plaque, along with a standing ovation.

City of College Park

To give a special thank you to Renita, Glenarden Woods Elementary School held an event in the school’s auditorium. A choir sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” to the very teary-eyed Renita, while the students she saved gave her one rose each to show their love and appreciation. The wider world took notice, too.

WTOP/Megan Cloherty

Fazlul Kabir, who witnessed the incident, was so touched by Renita’s heroic acts that he took to social media to spread the word of the heroic bus driver. Her life would never be the same.

Elliot Scarangello / The Diamondback

Right away, the Facebook and Twitter posts went viral, catching the attention of multiple news outlets, including CNN. In one interview, Renita Smith reflected on what made her so strong that day.

Upon watching the camera footage of her heroic actions, Renita was shocked, even questioning, “What was I thinking?” When it came to the children though, she had only one thing in mind. “I have to be strong for the babies,” she told a reporter.


At this point, Renita’s name and story had been heard all across the nation. One more big name would come into her life and ask for an interview. It was famed comedian, actress, and TV personality Ellen DeGeneres, who had a special treat for Renita.

The Ellen Show

Ellen DeGeneres flew Renita out to Los Angeles to appear on her show. Although Renita’s humble nature tried to downplay her heroism, Ellen wouldn’t allow that. After telling her story, Renita was given a check for $20,000, which helped her with her financial trouble. The Smith family was so proud.

The Ellen Show

Unlike everyone else who knew of her story, Renita’s two boys were not surprised with their mom’s actions. To them, she was already a hero. It goes to show how special a bus driver can be — and how special the kids can be to them.

Facebook/Renita Smith

As both bus drivers Renita and Clayton Ward can attest, kids are key. Bus riders changed Clayton’, who once dreamed of becoming a teacher. School just wasn’t for him. After graduating from his high school in Massachusetts, he enrolled in college, but it did not last for long.

After a few semesters, Clayton (below) dropped out. As far as a career went for the young adult, he had his family back him up with their company in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts, which has lasted through generations.

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The family business was school bus driving, and it began with Clayton’s grandfather, and then both his mother and father got behind the wheel. Next, it was Clayton’s turn, and he accepted it with grace.

Associated Press

Clayton drove high school students throughout Framingham and became the highlight of their day. He had a natural way with the kids, as well as special knowledge that changed their outlook on education.


The bus route went through the low-income communities of the city, where students endured daily struggles, with no help or support in sight. Clayton became their life line.

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As tremendously important as teachers are for any age, some teachers may lose their touch with students. Clayton’s natural affinity with the kids engaged them and made them want to learn more, specifically about history.

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Clayton was always a history buff. Sharing his passion and knowledge brought out the kids’ enthusiasm. Clayton received praise from the students, who told him, “I wish you were my teacher.” This gradually sparked an idea.

The Morning Call

Deep inside, Clayton wanted to resume his education. He loved teaching, and it was easy to see that he already excelled at it. It was all just a matter of applying himself, so he decided to make a return to college.

The Daily Beacon

College is never an easy time for anyone, but even while balancing out his job as a bus driver and his work as a university student, Clayton found a way.

Metro West Daily News

He enrolled in MassBay Community College in 2019, working toward a degree in Liberal Arts. In the morning and afternoon, Clayton would drive his bus, but after that, he attended night classes. He just hoped all his hard work would be worth it in the end.

MassBay Community College

Through his endeavors, Clayton still maintained his friendly relationship with the students, who learned of his academic journey. This further inspired the students, some of which were seniors, to look into college themselves.

Clayton happily recommended MassBay Community College to the senior students. They asked question after question about what his college experience was like. There was so much to learn from Clayton Ward, especially with how well he was doing in school.

Clayton was not anticipating he would be an exceptional student, but when he saw all the straight A’s he was earning, it was like a dream. He kept pushing harder, but hit a few hiccups.

When the spring semester began in 2020, life had changed entirely. The coronavirus pandemic put a stop to everyday routines all over the globe. To control the virus and save lives, things changed. But that wouldn’t stop Clayton Ward.

The shutdown of schools was an unfortunate necessity, which meant that Clayton didn’t have his job as a bus driver or the in-classroom experience of college anymore. With online classes giving him the structure he needed, he pressed onward and continued to excel.

MassBay Community College

With every semester aced, Clayton was placed on the Dean’s List. He was also inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. Even without the graduation ceremony, Clayton was on cloud nine when he finally made it to the end.

Kishwaukee College

Pouring his all into his education, Clayton was able to graduate with high honors in only three semesters, fit into a single year! He earned an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts, alongside several awards.

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In an interview, he shared a quote from his former middle school band teacher that gave him and others strength: “It’s about your discipline. It’s not about doing the right thing when people are watching you, it’s doing the right thing when they’re not watching you.”

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Clayton hopes to share more wisdom when he officially becomes a teacher. For now, he moves on to his next step of achieving his bachelor’s degree. No matter how much time passes though, he will never forget the students who inspired him to make a change in the first place.

MassBay Community College

To the high school students who changed his life, he said, “You guys mean so much to me. I thank you for every time we were able to talk. It gave me more of a drive, more ambition.” Clayton isn’t the only unexpected figure to change students’ lives either.

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By the mid-1970s, Bill Crawford had worked as a janitor for close to a decade. Of course, his work at the Academy wasn’t exactly glamorous. He spent most of each day mopping floors and replacing dead light bulbs. But he did have a lot to teach those kids.

Outside the Beltway

Unfortunately, Bill rarely had the chance to converse with students. Juggling drills, classes, and mandatory meals, cadets found themselves with precious little free time. And most of them didn’t want to spend it befriending the janitor.

Air Force Times

But unlike most of his classmates, James Moschgat took notice of the older janitor. Though the quiet man “blended into the woodwork,” there was something about Bill that piqued James’ interest. He just couldn’t put his finger on what it was.

Still, James had bigger fish to fry — a huge amount of history homework, to be specific. He and the other cadets were yawning their way through a detailed history of World War II. But one page soon had James’ pulse racing.

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It described a bold private serving in the U.S. Army’s 36th Infantry Division during the invasion of Italy. In 1943, a burst of enemy machine-gun fire sent his entire platoon scrambling for cover. But he rushed forward with a bundle of grenades.

Without any assistance, the private charged up the hill and cleared out multiple Italian machine gun nests. His bravery allowed Allied forces to advance up through Europe, and Fascist Italy fell just two weeks later.

His moment of glory came at one of the most crucial junctures of World War II. America should’ve celebrated the private as a hero, however, he never got any kind of parade back home.

Immediately following the battle, that courageous young man was reported dead. Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent a posthumous Medal of Honor to the soldier’s father. Little did the President know he was missing one key detail.

Washington Post

It turned out the American champion was still alive! Axis forces captured him after his heroic charge and placed him in a German prisoner-of-war camp. Once the conflict ended, he simply returned home without any fanfare.

That story was thrilling enough by its own merit, but what really sent James’ head spinning was the name of the private. The book listed him as William J. Crawford. It couldn’t be the same man who cleaned the Academy bathrooms, could it?

A couple of days later, James worked up the courage to ask Bill about the story. After scanning over the book’s account, Bill nonchalantly said, “Yep. That’s me.” The young cadet’s jaw dropped to the floor.

Re-gathering his wits, James asked Bill how he ended up as a custodian. The older man said that once he left the army, he still had the desire to serve somewhere in his native Colorado. Not long after, he offered his services to the Air Force Academy.

Word of Bill’s exploits spread like wildfire around campus. In a matter of days, the mild-mannered janitor became an Academy legend, with amazed cadets going to him for advice and war stories. Still, James felt the war hero was underappreciated.

Twitter / Grant Young

For one thing, Bill never officially received his Medal of Honor. That bothered James even after he graduated in 1977. So when, a few years later, the recent alumnus heard a big guest was visiting the Academy, he spotted a chance to make things right.

Ahead of President Ronald Reagan’s address to the student body in 1984, cadets past and present pestered the Academy to recognize Bill Crawford in the event. They thought their pleas fell on deaf ears…until that fateful day came. Reagan called Bill onstage.

Pens & Patron

The President personally awarded Private Crawford the Medal of Honor and spoke about how he was the perfect model of leadership. At last, everyone knew Bill was a hero. His hometown of Pueblo even erected a statue in his honor.

The Pueblo Chieftain

Bill lived out the rest of his years in relative peace and quiet — just the way he liked it. When he passed away in 2000, he was buried in the Air Force Academy Cemetery. No other enlisted Army serviceman was ever laid to rest there before.

The Patriot Post

Although Bill left this world years ago, the tenets he stood for live on. Colonel James Moschgat — now retired — still speaks about the lessons he learned from the humble janitor.

The Durango Herald

James said that Bill’s life is proof that the real heroes aren’t always who you would expect. All service is worthy of respect. On top of that, there are countless ways for brave men and women to serve their communities.

Nobody knows this fact better than Bill’s brother-in-arms, Bob Williams. His neighbors admire him for his experience as a war hero and educator, but that isn’t all he has done.

The Quad-City Times

A resident of Long Grove, Iowa, the WWII veteran is known by most for his time as a high school teacher and football coach in nearby Davenport. Still, Bob has become a legend in his small town of 800 for an entirely different reason.

Every Saturday, the 94-year-old rises bright and early with one very special purpose in mind. Pulling on his signature yellow slicker, Bob begins down the street and heads over to his local Dollar General.


Bob is a familiar sight as he enters the small discount store, and he greets each employee by name as he shuffles up to the counter. Pulling a crisp 50-dollar bill out of his wallet, the cashier knows exactly what the elderly man is here for: chocolate.


Handing him two full boxes of jumbo Hershey bars – one with almonds, one without – the cashier smiles as Bob cracks open one of the containers and hands her a full bar. Gifting another to the customer in line behind him, Bob heads back out into the streets of Long Grove, determined to make as many days as he can.

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Known as “The Candy Man,” Bob Williams has been handing out jumbo Hershey bars to complete strangers in his community for the last 11 years. He was inspired to begin his mission of kindness after reading about a number of “pay it forward” initiatives being promoted across the country.


Given his lifelong love of chocolate, Bob decided to make his trips to the dollar store worthwhile by sharing his sweets with others. Starting off with purchases of just three bars, Bob would keep one for himself and give the other two away. The responses he got were astonishing.

Alton Boys

“You’d think I’d given them keys to a new car,” Bob said of the reactions to his initial act of kindness. “Honest to God, these people were thunderstruck.” From then on, the veteran knew exactly what his “pay it forward” movement would be.

The Des Moines Register

Over the years, Bob has given out over 6,000 Hershey bars within his community. Though he typically reserves his bars for people that “look like they could use a smile,” strangers aren’t the only ones that can expect a sweet treat from this kind old man.


Jan Hartwig-Heggen, a close friend of Bob’s, estimates that he’s given her between 200-300 chocolate bars, most of which he leaves at her front door. “That’s his signature,” she said. “You always know when Bob has been there.”

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Another lucky resident that receives frequent visits from “The Candy Man” is Darla Fay, who Bob jokingly asked to be his Valentine one February before handing her an extra-large Hershey bar. Since then, Bob has visited Darla almost every day, always making sure to have some chocolate saved for her.

“Do you remember as a kid, the excitement and joy you felt when you first saw all the gifts Santa left under the Christmas tree?” asked Darla. “That’s the feeling I get when Bob surprises me with a Hershey bar. It just makes me feel like a kid again.”

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So, how does the 94-year-old keep up with the demand for his satisfying sweets? By stashing them, of course! Bob is known to keep around 500 chocolate bars in his freezer at a time, and he always makes sure to rotate them out so that he’s gifting only the freshest chocolate.

FOX News

Unsurprisingly, Bob has become something of a celebrity in Long Grove, with nearly everyone knowing his name and his mission. Not a day goes by where cars don’t honk their hellos at him as they pass, and some residents will even approach him to exchange a hug and a smile for a delicious chocolate bar.


Recently, a local magazine called Our Iowa did a feature on Bob and his remarkable hobby. After reading the article, one of Bob’s neighbors sent it to her son, who worked in Hershey’s corporate strategy department. He presented the story to company executives, and, right then and there, they were hooked.

Inspired by Bob, Hershey began their Heartwarming the World campaign, which sought to spread kindness and compassion nationwide. Taking a page from “The Candy Man’s” book, Hershey encouraged their employees to hand out chocolate bars to strangers, including those recently affected by Hurricane Florence.


Not only that, but Hershey’s also reached out to Bob directly to make him part of their family. Cutting him a check for $1,500, the company promised to provide Bob with “all the bars he’ll ever need.” Now that’s a kiss!

With all the recognition Bob has received from his giving, he was able to purchase a nearby park bench to serve as a memorial for his late wife, Mary Elizabeth. Visiting the bench daily, Bob says that it’s really his wife who gives him his instructions to deliver his treats each day.

The Des Moines Register

But beyond it all, Bob’s mission is about more than just handing out Hershey bars to strangers. For “The Candy Man” of Long Grove, he hopes that his one small act of goodwill create an avalanche of kindness for people everywhere.


“I hope everybody picks up on that,” said Bob. “We need to lighten up and smile a bit more. Share whatever you can with people. There is no charge for that last bit of advice.”