Of all the ways to make $20,000, saving 20 young kids from a burning bus might be one of the toughest. Nor was it exactly bus driver Renita Smith’s idea, but the courageous single mom got her karmic reward for her heroic acts nonetheless.
Earlier in the year, Smith was driving kids, ranging in age from four to ten, home, when she started to smell smoke from the brake floor. Deciding the best course of action would be to contact school bus headquarters for assistance, she got on her walkie talkie. But by then, kids were already alerting her to increasing smoke plumes at the back of the bus.
Fortunately, thanks to previous fire drills, the children quickly fell into line and exited the vehicle. But as a mom herself, Smith knew she could never just walk away and assume all the kids were accounted for. So, taking her own life into her hands, she walked through the billowing smoke to the back of the bus to make sure not a single kid had been left behind.
Once she was sure it was all clear, Smith exited the bus, and not a moment too soon, either. Just seconds later, the entire bus exploded in massive flames. The fire would certainly have killed anyone still on the bus at the moment.
Local neighbors, seeing the disaster, came running out to help tend to the kids until their parents could arrive and take them home.
After numerous recognition ceremonies in her own Maryland community, Ellen DeGeneres heard about Rita and invited her to come on her show, with her teenage son in tow. Unbeknownst to Smith, however, the TV talk show host had quite a surprise for the bus driver heroine.
In conjunction with photo book publisher Shutterfly, DeGeneres presented a check for $20,000 to Smith, so she would no longer have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Although the old saying is that “no good deed goes unpunished,” in this case, Renita Smith’s good deed has been universally recognized, and now has been rewarded as well.
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