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October 29, 2002

An emotional roller coaster

From: Garden City Telegram, KS
Oct. 29, 2002

Brenda Kirkham

The Kirkham family has experienced a full range of emotions this week and it's only Tuesday. You'll have to forgive me if my column wanders a bit. I'm going on precious few hours of sleep after running around town all day Monday waiting on the arrival of my first nephew.

Any woman who goes through labor should be awarded with a lifetime supply of chocolate or a million dollars, depending on the which the new mother chooses. I think my sister might go for the chocolate.

After 14 hours of waiting around, my nephew finally made his appearance at 9:07 p.m., Monday. Since he's the first grandchild on either side, the hospital room was packed and I'm sure it was quite an amusing scene for the wonderful nurses that were there all day to take care of my sister.

My nephew's birth gave my family, especially my dad, some time to celebrate life in sharp contrast to what my father had experienced the day before.

As many of you might have heard, there was a bus wreck just outside of Wallace on Sunday. The bus, containing football players from the Kansas School for the Deaf returning from Colorado Springs, Colo., missed a curve and rolled down a steep embankment.

My home town is Wallace. It's just a small town eight miles east of Sharon Springs. Even though Sharon Springs was the nearest "big" town to my house, my hometown has always been Wallace and this tragedy hit closer to home than I initially thought.

In an unfortunate way, tragedies always bring out the best in small communities. Since the wreck happened during the time when most residents of Wallace County are in church, the local sheriff sent people to find anyone that either knew sign language or was a trained EMT to help the 34 victims. My father has been a volunteer EMT for as long as I remember and he was one of the many that rushed to the scene to help out.

Since his ambulance crew was the first to arrive, they took the most critically injured man to the hospital. Dad struggled to talk about it Monday because their patient had been the only casualty of the wreck, the assistant coach for the football team.

Our little neighbor girl, well she's still little to me, was also one of the people that rushed to the accident to help out since she knows sign language. She's only a senior in high school, yet she was a grown up in so many ways on that day. I'm sure it's something that she won't soon forget.

No one is quite sure yet why the bus went off the road. The conditions were rainy and the road was wet, but the accident is still under investigation.

My understanding, from what I've seen on television, read in Kansas City newspapers and heard from my father, is that everyone in or around Oakley pitched in to help out after most of the passengers were sent there for care.

Like I said, it is extremely unfortunate that this event even occurred. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of everyone on the bus and especially to the family of the assistant coach that was killed.

Last but not least, thank you to everyone from the small towns in western Kansas that rushed to the scene and showed such love and compassion for perfect strangers. What an impression you all have made on the entire state.

© Garden City Telegram