On Jan. 28, the infamous “Snowpocalypse” wreaked havoc throughout the city, stranding countless people on the streets, at work, on buses and at schools.
Wheeler High School students Andros Garcia, Christian McDuffie and Miljenko Ramljak are a few of the hundreds of students who found themselves swept up in a natural disaster and left to wonder, “When will I get home? Will I even get home at all?”
Garcia, McDuffie and Ramljak are enrolled in the magnet program at Wheeler and live in the south Cobb area. As school bus riders, they were unable to leave the campus until nearly four hours after school was scheduled to release, and even after that, their bus didn’t reach its first stop until three-and-a-half hours after its departure from Wheeler.
This trend continued until almost 10 p.m. before the students were escorted off the bus to spend the night at nearby Griffin Middle School. Andros Garcia and Miljenko Ramljak, however, had their own plan in mind.
Garcia and Ramljak decided against sleeping at the middle school and were both determined to get home that night. Going against the orders of their bus driver and the Griffin administrators, Garcia and Ramljak began the treacherous 6-mile journey home.
“I just wanted to get home to eat and sleep. I was on that bus for five hours,” Garcia said. After jogging in the snow with all their school supplies, Garcia and Ramljak made it home safely within an hour and a half.
Unlike his classmates, McDuffie opted to spend the night at Griffin. Though he only had his jacket to use as a blanket and small snacks to eat, McDuffie was thankful for the efforts that the school employees made to keep him and the other students comfortable.
“It was better than sleeping outside in the cold,” McDuffie said. “But I was still worried about how I’d get home.” The following morning, McDuffie walked 8 miles to get home rather than waiting on a school bus to retrieve him — it was faster.
The only thing more stressful than riding a school bus under such circumstances might be driving one.
With major roads closing before the students were even released, the bus drivers faced major obstacles from the start, including slick roads, traffic jams, terrified children.
Keeping calm was the key to holding it together, a statement Renee Croy, a Cobb County bus driver of more than 20 years, can attest to.
Croy was stranded for nearly eight hours after dropping off her last students. Overwhelmed and beside herself, Croy said she broke down.
“I’m still not over it. We don’t know how to drive on the ice. Snow is different, but ice can’t be controlled,” she said. “We were starving, thirsty and stuck on the buses. Some drivers had no other choice but to urinate on themselves. There was nowhere else to go!”