Nothing paralyzes a parent quite like the knowledge that a child is missing. Adults understand the rough-and-tumble nature of the world and how it can snap you up without warning, and their fears are not unfounded.
That’s why they insulate their kids, providing them with a safe environment. But one Pennsylvania mother got the news that her 11-year-old child with Down syndrome had vanished off of a school bus — a place he should have been safe — and was stranded on the side of the road.
According to WGAL, May 20 was just another day for Evan Clifford. A student at Quarryville Elementary School, he boarded the bus run by the Solanco School District with his mother’s help, just like he always did.
However, things didn’t go according to plan. See, Evan was tired, and during the ride, he fell asleep.
Normally that wouldn’t matter much. Kids fall asleep on the bus all the time.
But on this particular day, Evan stayed asleep. When the bus arrived at school, someone allegedly tried to rouse him, according to WHTM-TV.
“He stirred a little bit, but he didn’t wake up fully,” his mother, Dana Clifford, told WHTM-TV. “They got the other kids off the bus, and Evan was still on the bus sleeping.”
It’s difficult to imagine that someone wouldn’t check again, or that the person who’d tried to wake him would just forget or leave him there.
It also seems as though the driver didn’t check all of the seats as he left the school. Why? Because Evan was still snoozing away inside.
In fact, the boy reportedly stayed asleep as the driver motored the bus back to his house and parked it. Eventually, Evan’s parents said he awoke in a strange place with no idea how to get back to familiar ground.
“I can’t imagine how you cannot check and can just miss a child,” Clifford said. Indeed, Evan himself must’ve felt equally shocked.
But despite his disorientation, he was apparently able to formulate a plan. He seems to have exited the bus, walked to Route 272, and stuck out his thumb.
His efforts at hitchhiking worked in his favor. A pair of kind women stopped to ask if he was OK.
Evan had wisely memorized his mother’s cell phone number. One quick call later, the situation was resolved.
“They saved him,” Clifford said. “I can’t thank them enough for what they did.”
She added, “God only knows what could have happened to him. … He could have been raped or murdered.”
Evan’s father, Joshua Clifford, believes that adding a few technological safeguards could help kids in the future.
“If you shut the bus off and try to get out of the door, you have to go all the way to the back of the bus to hit a button so the alarm shuts off and you can get out,” he said, detailing a system that the school district could implement.
He hopes that the incident will prompt the school toward greater vigilance. “This cannot happen to another child,” he stated.
According to WGAL, the bus driver has been let go and the bus company sent out an apology.
Liftable, a section of The Western Journal, has reached out to Eschback Bus Company, the Solanco School District and Dana Clifford for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.
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