You can call it fate, a greater plan, or just an idea that works. There's a reason Melinda Campbell is taking the wheel of Dale County School bus 14-05.
“I still believe and feel this is his route. These are his children,” said Campbell. “I understand losing someone in a drastic situation. Although I never witnessed it, I think that's why it's harder for them because once you see it you can't erase it.”
“Mrs. Melinda who came on and she was a godsend. She stepped right in. she could never replace Mr. Poland, but she made this special connection with those children,” said Dale County Schools Superintendent Donny Bynum.
Two years ago Melinda’s brother was murdered.
That tragedy gave her the tools to help these students move forward, students like Kimberly Dickey.
She was reading “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” when the bus stopped on January 29th, 2013.
She said, “Te bus jerked back very quickly and I heard the man yelling that he needed kids. Mr. Poland said I’m sorry I can't do that because it was his job to protect us. The man said do it or I’ll shoot you, and then he shot him. Everyone just ran off the bus, and that's all I remember after that.”
There were 22 students on the bus that day.
Bynum said, “The children were just hysterical. Just utter chaos was everywhere.”
But out of the chaos students learned to appreciate life.
“It's like everybody is nicer to each other than they were before,” said Dickey. “We know no matter what grade we're in everybody can be friends. Being that we've been through that together it's like kids we didn't talk to we started talking to that day and we've been talking ever since.”
These days the school bus doesn't drive up Private Road 1539, and some students still sit down with counselors every two weeks.
Although they are trying to put those images behind them, they still remember Charles Poland's sacrifice.
“I don't say ever forget because it does cross your mind, but try not to dwell on it,” said Campbell.
Dickey said, “He was a really great man, and I wish it wouldn't have happened, but he is our hero.
A hero that will always be on Dale County School bus 14-05.
The school bus that everything took place on has been removed from the State of Alabama. Superintendent Donny Bynum said it was important the students had a new bus to ride on.