A young person later
told us most of the kids had gone to sleep when they got on the
bus. The first noise he heard was a scream. He jumped up and saw
our youth pastor in the stairwell caught in flames. The pastor said
to the young people, “I’m not going to make it. Please
get off the bus as quickly as you can.” He lifted his hands
and said, “I’m going home.” Those were his last
Miraculously, Allen made
it off the bus with the survivors.
On Sunday morning, Don
went to Carrollton to meet with the families at the Holiday Inn
and to help identify bodies. I stayed to lead our church service.
About 1,500 people filled our sanctuary. I preached, gave the altar
call, and 40 people accepted Jesus as Savior. After the service
a reporter from CBS came up to me with a microphone in his hand.
He said, “I understand
you’re the pastor’s wife of this church.”
“Yes sir, I am.”
“I want to ask
you a question. How’s your faith in God now?”
I grabbed that microphone.
“Sir,” I said, “I’ve never cried as much
in my life as I have the last few hours. I’ve never walked
through a valley as low as I’m walking today, but I’ve
never felt the grace and the strength and the power and the anointing
of Almighty God any greater than I feel it right now.” I talked
to him for about 10 minutes.
he said, “I didn’t want a sermon. I just asked a question.”
The network put me on
the air just like I said it. They didn’t edit a thing. For
10 minutes on the CBS national news I preached about the grace of
We started having the
funerals Thursday. My husband preached 16 funerals in 48 hours.
We began burying our loved ones at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The last
interment was at 4 on Saturday afternoon.
Tragedy can overwhelm
us, destroying any chance of recovery to a full life. But God’s
grace was so evident among the families who endured loss. Several
examples will stay with me forever.
I remember Dotty Pearman.
Dotty’s husband, John, our associate pastor, was driving the
bus. He left a 7-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old son, a 14-year-old
daughter and a 34-year-old widow.
Dotty had to stay in
the hospital many months with her 14-year-old daughter. The girl
had been on the bus and was burned over 65 percent of her body.
She was not able to return to church immediately after the tragedy.
The first Sunday Dotty
came back to church, she walked up to the platform to sing with
the praise team. We began to sing a song, “Hallelujah, Praise
Dotty remembers saying
to herself, I can’t sing that. I have nothing to praise
You for, God. I am a widow with no way to make a living. I have
a daughter burnt beyond recognition.