Ellen Jakovich was running an errand for a friend in Alexandria yesterday morning when the call came in on her cell phone. It was the vice principal of Hoffman-Boston Elementary School, where Jakovich's 8-year-old son, Ryan, is a third-grader, and her voice was shaking.
Something terrible had happened to Ryan's bus. He was in an Arlington hospital.
Ana Paredes watches the crash scene at South Courthouse Road and Columbia Pike in Arlington. Her 12-year-old son, Sebastian Moorefield, was riding a bus that passed the intersection after a school bus collided with a garbage truck. "I thought he was on the bus," Paredes said. "I was just frantic."
(James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)
Beyond that, the details were unclear.
"To get a phone call from the vice principal of the school saying, 'You need to go to the hospital. Your son's been in a school bus wreck,' -- that was scary," said Jakovich, who has two children in Arlington schools and is vice president of the Hoffman-Boston PTA.
To her relief, other than being "banged up a little," Ryan was fine. He spent the rest of the day at home, where he and his mother played chess and Mancala, an African board game he learned at school.
All morning, as lights flashed at the accident scene a few blocks from the school, worried parents flooded the school with calls or rushed over in person, some in tears. News had spread that a bus crash had killed a child and critically injured another student and two adults.
Most parents learned that their children had not been involved. Some needed to glimpse their children for reassurance and left after peering into classrooms through the door window, said Meg Tuccillo, director of administrative services for Arlington schools. But some parents wanted to talk to their children and complained when it was not allowed.
Tuccillo said parents were discouraged from disrupting classes to talk about the bus crash.
Elsa Ochoa was waiting with her daughter Natali, 4, for the same bus that morning when a neighbor ran down the street and told them the news.
"He said, 'The bus won't come. It got in a big accident,' " said Ochoa, whose daughter would have been the bus's next passenger. Unaware of how severe the crash was, Ochoa walked Natali to school. There, she realized something was very wrong. "Everybody was so sad," she said.
Alice Roosa usually walks her three sons -- Ben, 10; Sam, 8; and Rich, 7 -- to school with their dog, Spike. Yesterday, after they got to school, two of the boys boarded a bus for a field trip.
Roosa was home watching a movie when she heard sirens. Then her nanny got a call from a friend: There had been a school bus crash near the school.
Roosa's heart sank. She speed-dialed the school, and in the agonizing moments before she learned that her sons were safe, her mind raced to recall the last hurried moments before she had said goodbye.
"The thing that flashes through your head is: What's the last thing you said to your child before they walked out the door?" she said, noting that she had given one of her sons sore-throat medicine and told them all, "Have a good day, kids."