Earlier this month, a two-story house in Hinton, West Virginia, went up in flames, taking the life of two young children.
Tyrone Sea, 13, and Andromeda Sea, 9, were killed after their house went into flames, which was reported to be an accident. The father managed to rescue one child from the house, but when he tried to return for the other two, the house collapsed, preventing further entry.
Tyrone was a child with special needs who wanted to become a school bus driver when he was older. When the news broke about his death, it devastated everyone in the community, especially at the bus garage at Summers County School District.
“He was always smiling, always happy; he wanted to be a school bus driver,” said Transportation Director Bryan Boone. “This happened and devastated everybody and all the drivers, they were pretty upset, and everybody wanted to do something to honor him.”
The transportation department decided on holding a benefit run for the family that would end at the middle school, prior to the vigil for the two children. The tribute run was a spur of the moment decision, and yet everybody came together and made it happen.
All of the 26 county school buses were on hand for the run, as were the drivers who participated in the event. Posters were placed on school buses, along with ribbons and wreaths. The school buses started at the bus garage and drove all through town, past the children’s house and ended at the middle school gymnasium.
The tribute also included the Summers County Sheriff’s Office and the local City of Hinton Police Department, which followed and lead the school buses.
“We usually have problems getting drivers to wash buses, but we got here, and we washed every bus in the county by noon that day,” Boone said. “It was something that everybody just wanted to jump in and do something.”
The tribute run wasn’t advertised or promoted. But the news spread through word of mouth, and people showed up in clusters on the streets as the buses went by. Following the tribute run, the gym was packed tight with everyone in the entire town there for the vigil.
“It’s been rough on everybody,” Boone said. “We are a really small town, and something like that is never good, or nobody expects anything like that to happen.”
Tyrone lived close to the middle school he was attending and therefore didn’t get to ride on the bus very often. Occasionally, he rode on it for activity trips. Or, if he was running late, a bus driver would stop and pick him up. However, Tyrone would still spend his mornings waving to every bus driver that drove by.
“It’s easy to get attached, and all the drivers did. He was out there every morning waving, even though he didn’t ride a bus,” Boone said. “Everybody knew him, and the little girl too, but the little boy wanted to be a bus driver and he told everybody.”
In one of his classes, Tyrone made a school bus out of popsicle sticks and construction paper. His class brought that down to the bus garage with a picture of Tyrone and Andromeda riding in it.
Besides the tribute run, there have been several other initiatives to honor and help the family with funeral costs. The community put together fundraisers to pay for the funeral, holding bake sales at local grocery stores. The transportation department also took one of its buses there for the bake sale, and decorated the bus with posters to draw more attention to the fundraiser.
Photos courtesy of the Summers County School District Transportation Department.