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6 > Image 6 of Kentucky Alumnus, vol. 65, no. 4, 1995

Part of Kentucky alumnus

"""j"i'_ 1 I Padgett squeezed out her window Contemporary society teems with R to safety, but her seatmates perished, tales of capitulation to despair. l along with two other adults and 23 Cobain, Kevorkian, Crips and Bloods children. consumed by inner anguish or By Mark Coomes The moment that ended in death transformed by desperation borne of y for 27 people has come to define the circumstances beyond their control. Behold, the bush burned with fire, and lives of the 40 survivors none more The cards and letters Harold rou- the bush was not consumed. Exodus so than Harold Dennis, a University of_ tinely receives tell him that people 3:2 Kentucky football player who was long to hear a different story. This is among the most critically injured. how a third-string wide receiver comes On the night of May 14, 1988, a Harold, barely 14 then andjust to command more attention than his school bus packed with sleeping chil- beginning the ninth grade, suffered teams brightest star. dren was driving south on Interstate third-degree burns to his face, neck, He is asked to speak to groups 71 to the First Assembly of Cod left shoulder and arm. He still bears from coast to coast and has been pro- church in Radcliff, Ky., 90 miles away. the unsightly, swirling scars. filed by CBS, ESPN, People magazine Thirty-five girls, 28 boys and four But he knows he is lucky to be alive. and Sports Illustrated. Much to his sur- I adults were returning from a day at Seven of the 14 kids sitting around prise, he has become a quiet spokes- g Kings Island amusement park near him were killed, including his seat- man for hope in a world awash in ; Cincinnati. They were members and mate and best friend, Anthony "Andy" hopelessness. E guests of the youth group LIFE, and Marks. People want to see and hear how a I E before departing, group leader Chuck Harold isnt sure what happened to fellow human can derive powerful y Kytta said a small prayer: Andy. All he knows is that their win- nourishment from the bread of adver- i "Please grant us a safe trip. May dow wouldnt open. With swollen eyes, sity and the waters of affliction. They God have His hand on this bus." Harold fought through the smoke and will find that Harold differs in a very The driver, john Pearman, had a fire to find the rear exit, six crowded important way from most of the lost _ bad feeling about the trip. He tried and chaotic rows away. souls who succumb to their pain. hard to find another driver but just three rows forward was Pad- Ive thought about it, and the only couldnt. He boarded that morning getts open window. Until last May, explanation is God, he said. Other with an ax and an extra fire extin- Harold never knew. than God and having faith in Him that guisher. i "That makes me mad," he said. He knows what Hes doing, theres I lt was cool that night, but janie That bothers me, yeah. To think that really no correct answer to it." Padgett, a chaperone, needed some there was a window open. Ifl had Harold had faith before the crash, air. It took four people to open the turned and looked, my whole life but he says it has grown stronger window next to the bench seat she would have been different." since. It has been bolstered by the shared with an adult friend and a 13- earthly blessings of a strong family, year-old girl. And ajier the earthquake ajire; but the loving friends, financial security, a The bus was filled to capacity with Lord was not in the fire: and ajler the fire sound mind and an athletic body. } young teens, and the close quarters i astill small voice. IKings 19:12 Seven years have passed since the made Padgett a little nervous: I kept Carrollton bus crash. After so much saying to myself, `What if The tragedy of May 14, 1988, is writ- time and with so many resources to I At 10:55 p.1n., near the Northern ten all over Harold Dennis face, but draw from, Harold was asked if the , Kentucky town of Carrollton, Pearman not in his heart. It never crossed his wounds have finally healed. i spotted a pickup truck barreling north mind to surrender to despair not He answered after a long pause. in his southbound lane. The ear-split- even that first night, when he thought Im still not over it. I mean, its . ting sound of skidding tires and he was going to die. gotten a lot better. I dont think about I crunching metal announced the worst I used to wonder a lot I still won- it as much as I used to, but Im never school bus disaster in U.S. history. der a lot why me?" he said. "W`hy do going to forget it or stop thinking i The truck, driven by a drunk, I have to look like this? Why did I have about it. I think of my friends, what ll smashed head-on into the right front to go through all this pain? Back then I they might be doing now." corner of the bus, tearing a three-inch would have rather been in any other gash in the 60-gallon gasoline tank. l situation, but right now I dont mind. I I have chosen thee in the furnace of Within seconds, the bus filled with y think it was good experience (for me). ajfliction. lsaiah 48:10 I black smoke and oily flames. I It still is a good experience." 4 Kentucky Alumnus Wimgr ]QQ5 i. t