Bus drivers rescue students from Covenant School shooting

Brendan Tierney talks to bus drivers who took Covenant School students away from the school to reunite with loved ones.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 10:21 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Metro Nashville Public Schools bus drivers are among the many being hailed as heroes after Monday’s mass shooting at Covenant School.

Seven drivers, who were working at the bus depot between driving routes, dropped everything and sprinted to get behind their wheels after getting a call about the shooting.

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They got a police escort to the Green Hills school where evacuated students were loaded onto buses and taken to the nearby reunification center to wait for their parents.

“Inside the bus, I had some kids sitting behind me,” driver Tracy Garton said. “A lot of them were crying. I tried to turn around and try to tell them, ‘Everything is going to be OK. You are safe on the bus.’”

Garton said many of the students on his bus had heard the shots being fired or seen the shooter. Others were in complete shock and trying to understand what had happened.

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“When we got there, there were cops everywhere and all the intersections were blocked,” Garton said. “I didn’t know if anybody was hurt or what was going on.”

“She just kept on asking, ‘Now, why are we leaving the school? Did someone get sick?’” driver Kelly Bell said about one child on her bus. “I was like, ‘I don’t know baby, I think so.’ I didn’t know what to tell her.”

Bell eventually decided to tell her bus of pre-kindergarten students that they were going on a field trip. She said the teachers were able to remain calm and it kept the kids from panicking.

“They started singing the wheels on the bus go round and round,” Bell said. “A lot of them kids had never been on a bus, so they were excited.”

Garton and Bell have both been bus drivers for 19 years and said they have never experienced anything like this. They didn’t get a full picture of what happened until going home that evening and watching the news.

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Bell has a 5-year-old child and got emotional herself thinking about what could’ve happened to the children on her bus.

“What would I do? How would I feel if my kids were out there?” Bell said she asked herself.

Garton’s 60th birthday was on Monday, and he said it is a day he will never forget. He is hoping to one day meet the students he helped rescue from the shooting but does not want praise for his actions.

“I’m not really a hero,” Garton said. “I was just glad that I was here. Close and able to get out there in the time that we did. I’m just glad we were there to help get them out of there.”