Twenty Maryland elementary school children are alive today thanks to the heroic actions of school-bus driver Renita Smith. Smith rescued the children one by one Monday afternoon as the bus she had been driving just moments before burst into flames.
Then she got back on the bus to make sure that no child had been left behind, ABC News reports.
Smith told ABC that the terrifying incident began when the dashboard on the bus started beeping and then she detected smoke. Just as she was calling for a back-up vehicle, she saw the flames.
"I put the mic back down, undid my seatbelt, jumped up, got my babies and got off," she told ABC News today. "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."
Thick, black smoke and intense flames can be seen pouring from the bus on dash-cam footage released Monday by fire officials.
See the school bus blaze below:
Neighbors and witnesses called Smith "brave" and credits her with saving the children's lives. Fazlul Kabir took to Facebook to sing Smith's praises.
As for Smith, she said she only did what any mother would do to protect her babies.
"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."
The cause of the blaze is still being investigated, but it was possibly a malfunctioning brake. Smith says she has had trouble sleeping since the bus fire, lying awake thinking about how much worse it could have been.
See Smith's ABC interview below: