“I was seeing trucks getting stranded,” said Jim Brasher, 51, of Cook Springs, who has worked as a bus driver for the Pell City school system for the past five years. “I thought, “Man, we are in trouble.”
He was right.
Ice and snow came unexpectedly Tuesday, Jan. 28, stranding motorist and children at local schools.
Brasher said the transportation department called him to let him know school was dismissing early, so he got into his vehicle and headed to the bus shop where his school bus was parked.
Road conditions deteriorated quickly.
“I had just heard an announcer on television say we were only going to get a dusting of snow, and there would be no travel problems,” Brasher said.
He later found out that forecasters were wrong. Two-three inches of ice and snow covered local roadways, forcing commuters to abandon their vehicles on foot to find shelter from the storm.
Brasher tried to call his supervisor Tony Morris, but cell phone service was jammed with frantic callers trying to warn family and friends about the icy conditions of roads, and all the accidents that the winter precipitation caused.
“By the time I got to the top of the Pell City exit, I saw four or five accidents that happened right in front of me,” Brasher said.
The school bus driver managed to get to Jacks restaurant on U.S. 231, but that was as far as he could safely travel.
Brasher, who walks five miles each day, abandoned his vehicle and continued his trip to the bus shop by foot.
“When I got there, the gates were closed and everyone was gone,” he said.
Brasher turned around and walked to the high school.
A woman there gave him a ride back to I-20, near Victory Christian School.
From there Brasher walked home.
He said it generally takes him about an hour and 10 minutes to walk five miles. It took him almost three hours in the snow and ice to walk home.
“Snow was coming down so hard, I couldn’t see the exit,” Brasher said. “For once in my life, I was appropriately dressed. I was wearing layers of clothing.”
Brasher was formally recognized by the Board of Education Tuesday night for his dedication and his efforts, going above and beyond the call of duty to perform his job.
“I am very thankful that you are on our team,” Michael Barber, superintendent of schools, told Brasher before presenting the bus driver with a framed special certification recognizing his commitment and dedication to the school system and to students.
Barber said there were many school employees who put children first during the January snow storm.
Principals, teachers and employees stayed at schools overnight with students who parents were stranded during the winter storm and unable to reach their children.
He said Brasher’s efforts typify the commitment of the school system staff of always putting children first.
“There were so many stories that came out of the Jan. 28 storm,” Barber said.
He said a decision was made at the last minute to not allow buses on roads because travel was so dangerous.
Barber presented the certificate to Brasher.
“In recognition of your dedication to the children of the Pell City School System,” the certification reads.
Brasher, who is a retired marketing manager, said he did not get into school bus driving for the money.
“I wanted to do something to help the community out,” he said.
Brasher has driven a school bus for the Pell City school system for five years.