WHAS11 Exclusive: Henryville school bus driver being hailed a hero

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on March 5, 2012 at 12:58 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 6 at 2:26 PM

HENRYVILLE, Ind. (WHAS11) -- A Henryville school bus driver is being called a hero after she drove 11 students to safety, while the tornado was barreling down on her bus.

She spoke exclusively with WHAS11’s Joe Arnold.

It has become the image of the Henryville tornado.  A school bus impaled inside a restaurant.  Henryville has an "Angel" to thank that no children were inside that bus.

Packing 175 mile per hour winds, the tornado was bearing down on Henryville and the lives of 11 children were in the hands of school bus driver Angel Perry.

“She's a true, true hero because she really helped the Lord save 11 little kids and her, she just was a miracle,” said Troy Albert, principal of Henryville High.

School was let out early so the students could be home and safe but the tornado did not wait. School bus drivers scrambled to find shelter for their precious cargo.

Angel Perry was at the intersection of Heil Road and Henryville-Otisco Road, nearly three miles from the school, not sure where to turn as the green sky grew black.

“And I stopped the bus for a second, put my hands down and I said, 'Dear Lord, what do I do?' And the next thing I know, we're at the 4-way in Henryville. And I saw the funnel cloud. So I radioed the school and said - we're a minute, a minute and a half away, I thought it was going to hit before we could get there. And I wanted them to know that we were right there. And the next thing, they were helping me get the kids in there. And we were safe. We were safe” said Perry.

Inside the school principal Troy Albert was on the phone with his son telling him to find a safe place in their house.

“I saw her bus pull up and she was unloading 11 little cherubs, including her son.  And I said just get in here, get in the office,” said Albert.

“As soon as we got in there, they said, the bus is gone,” said Angel’s son Preston Perry. “A lot of the littler kids were screaming and crying and then just all the adults were just saying, it's going to be okay. We're safe here, this is the safest spot.”

Yet both Preston and his mom feared the worst as they huddled for safety together.

“I grabbed his hand and I told him that I loved him.  And I said, 'I think this is it.'  And he said, 'We've got God with us, Mom. He's amazing,” said Angel.

There was no shortage of heroes in Henryville on Friday, but Angel Perry's name is on everyone's lips.

"No, I'm not the hero," a reluctant Perry replied.  "No, I am not the hero."

Advised that she is regarded as a hero, Perry demurred.

"Those kids are awesome too," she said.  "Those kids are heroes too."

"She's a hero," reiterated Morgan Perry, the school bus driver's daughter, "She really is."

Morgan sobbed as she embraced her mother. 

"I love you Mom," she said, choking back tears.

"I'm just so proud of her and I want her to know that," Albert said, embracing Perry.  "And I hope she drives for us forever because that's the kind of people we need."

"Everybody that was in that little room with us that we filled... were amazing," Perry said.  "We all made it because we all worked together.

It is an historic tornado outbreak. A tragedy that has claimed 39 lives in five states.  Amid the devastation, countless others are thankful to be able to hold their child, safely.
 

"The bus drivers did an amazing job getting those kids home or getting them into homes that had safety or bringing them back to school," said Renee Eckart, a school counselor.  "The bus drivers, they're the heroes."

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