“The Burning Bus,” Ensign, Mar. 1995, 52
It was raining as my friend Katie and I loaded our luggage into the compartment under the bus, keeping only our carry-on bags as we began the long ride to the Atlanta temple. Our husbands, who couldn’t join the Tampa Florida Stake’s biannual temple trip that November, waved good-bye as the bus began to move. Slowly we gained speed as Bishop Smeeten welcomed us aboard and called on someone to offer a prayer.
After the prayer, Katie and I talked for a while and then drifted off to sleep. At about 10:30 P.M. I was awakened by people moving toward the front of the bus. I could hear someone saying that the back of the bus was on fire and that everyone should leave their bags and get off as quickly as possible. Following instructions, Katie and I quickly arose and, leaving our carry-on bags behind, hurried toward the front of the bus. A few people in the back of the bus had to jump from windows, but everyone managed to exit.
Working together, several men threw open the luggage compartment doors under the bus and started tossing the bags out. When the last piece of luggage was removed, the men rejoined the main group. Forty-seven Latter-day Saints watched in horror as flames engulfed the rear of the bus and the tires exploded from the heat.
By the time the fire department arrived, the back half of the bus was completely destroyed, including the metal. All the windows had popped out from the heat, and the bus interior was gutted.
The fire-fighting team put out what flames remained and collected estimates of personal loss. While we waited under a picnic shelter for a replacement bus to arrive, some of the members started talking about what they had left on the now-charred bus. I was worried because I had left behind my asthma medication, which I should never be without. But my troubles seemed small in comparison with those of Sister Dorough, who had fled the burning bus without her 147 pages of original, unduplicated family history records. The area of the bus where she had been sitting was melted into the pavement.
Brother Marshall Scott stood quietly listening to this sister and me talk about our losses. Without saying a word, he walked over to the burnt bus and entered through what was left of the front door. A few minutes later he emerged with my medication in hand. He gave it to me and then turned back to the bus. He appeared a second time with a large, blackened package and handed it to Sister Dorough. The outside of the book and several pages of it were scorched, but the family history records were intact.
Nothing else was retrieved from the bus—there was nothing more but ashes. Although the group sustained losses, we felt fortunate not to have lost anything vital. We knew that we had been protected and that two essential items, my medication and Sister Dorough’s family history records, had been preserved through the kindness of a loving Heavenly Father.