Every day, Bertha Hutson reads the Prayer of Jabez “for the Lord to protect me and to do nobody any harm” before she starts her Hall County school bus route.
“And it works,” she said, standing inside the Hall County school system offices Monday night in Gainesville, her arm in a sling.
She had just left a Hall County Board of Education meeting, where she was recognized for her actions related to a Jan. 3 school bus wreck near Athens Highway and Barrett Road in East Hall.
Hutson’s bus, carrying 20 students from Myers Elementary School, was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer hauling heavy machinery.
According to the Georgia State Patrol, which handled the investigation, the school bus was making a left turn from Athens Highway onto a private drive when it was struck.
Two students complained of “minor injuries” but were not transported to the hospital, officials said.
Hutson suffered a shoulder injury and was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Expecting surgery in February, she won’t be able to drive for the rest of the school year, she said.
Jewel Armour, the school system’s executive director of operations, told the school board, “The good part about this is that she had followed the training we had given her.
“We teach our drivers, as they unload students, to empty from the back of the bus, so that if somebody does hit the bus in the rear, there are no students back there. And (Hutson) had done that, fortunately.”
The back of the bus “took a real big lick,” Armour added.
“The other thing is ... even though she was injured, she kept those kids under control ... until we got some help there for her. She just did a good job, and we’re proud of her.”
Superintendent Will Schofield said that when he arrived at the scene, Hutson was in the middle of the action with her arms around students.
“You are our hero and we thank you for taking care of our youngsters,” he said.
Board Chairman Nath Morris presented Hutson, who was accompanied to the meeting by husband Doug, with a certificate and a $50 gift card to Longstreet Cafe.
She slipped out of the meeting after a standing ovation from the audience.
“I don’t like being singled out,” Hutson said. “I kind of (prefer to be) in the back row.”
As for the wreck, she said, “it happened so fast, and I (was) just trying to do my job.”
She said that in November, she will have driven for the school system for 14 years.