Parents are calling Maryland school bus driver Renita Smith a hero after she saved 20 elementary school children from a burning bus on Sept. 12.
For Smith, her day began as any other, driving the children, whom she often calls her "babies," to Glenarden Woods Elementary School in College Park, according to ABC News. After her third or fourth stop of the day, she realized something was wrong when the bus's dashboard started beeping and she noticed smoke.
While she was calling for a backup vehicle, the bus suddenly erupted in flames. That's when she knew she had to take immediate action.
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"I put the mic back down, undid my seatbelt, jumped up, got my babies and got off," she said. "Once we got off, neighbors kicked right into 'Mommy Mode,' as I call it, and helped the kids get to a safe haven. When that was going on, I ran back onto the bus to make sure there was no children on the bus ... By the time I got to the last step on the bus, it just went up in smoke."
Witness and neighbor Fazlul Kabir said the children wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for Smith, according to The Root.
"Not only [Renita] took each one of the 20 kids from the bus one by one, but also went into the empty bus again to check if everyone was out, while it was still burning," he wrote in a Facebook post.
Luckily, no one was injured in the incident. The fire began near the rear wheels and spread to the rest of the bus, but investigators are still unsure of what caused the blaze in the first place.
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Smith refused to call herself a hero, saying she did what any mother would do in a situation like that.
"When I'm driving them, you're my children until I drop you off to your biological parents. I have to handle each child with care, as a mommy would her own, so that's what I did," she said. "That's what I hope any human being would do for any child."
Although she is thankful nobody was hurt, she still has trouble sleeping at night, imagining the worst, reports The Root.