NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nineteen years ago, Kelly Bell stepped on a Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) bus as a driver for the very first time.
“I was 25 years old at that time,” she said.
That was the same time Tracy Garton became an MNPS bus driver, too.
“There was a buddy of mine that drove here for Metro Schools, and he told me about the job,” he said. “So I applied and I got the job.”
Being a bus driver is something that both love doing.
“I’ve seen kids go to kindergarten,” said Bell. “I’ve seen them graduate. I’ve seen the kids that I used to take bring in their babies.”
But a school shooting is something the two had never seen in their nearly two decades of work.
“I got the call that school bus drivers were needed, ASAP,” said Garton.
“None of us had any clue,” said Bell. “All we knew was it was an active shooter.”
Bell and Garton hopped on their buses and made their way to The Covenant School in Green Hills Monday morning.
“As we’re going through the traffic that’s when it started becoming surreal,” said Bell. “Like what are we walking into? What’s going on?”
All they knew is that they had to get children and faculty to safety.
“I was looking at their faces getting on the bus, and I just wanted to say something to them,” said Garton. “I told them it’s going to be okay and everything’s okay now.”
“My kids started singing the wheels on the bus go round and round,” said Bell. “The parents, the teachers they were quiet but everybody was keeping them calm.”
Soon, the buses arrived at Woodmont Baptist Church where students were reunited with their families.
“It was chaos, but it was organized,” said Bell.
Both drivers still went back to working their regular routes that afternoon.
For Garton, Monday marked his 60th birthday.
“As I got to my first school that afternoon, seeing the kids getting on the bus, I really was sad,” he said.
While both drivers admit they are still overwhelmed with what happened, they are grateful to have been able to show up and help when called.
“It’s not just a job,” said Bell. “It’s really not. It’s the love of the kids. It’s the family that we have up here.”