STATESVILLE, N.C. -- A quick-thinking from an Iredell-Statesville School bus driver saved a bus full of children from a tornado that touched down last month.
Now she’s being recognized by the school district with an award. She spoke exclusively with NBC Charlotte about the experience.
Lisa Riddick has been a bus driver in Statesville for 18 years. But when she saw a tornado form in the path of her bus filled with students, she knew she had only minutes to react.
“We turned onto a road and noticed the sky was really different,” Riddick recalled.
It was in that moment, that the students’ phones started blaring.
“I said, ‘what does it say?’ And they said, ‘seek immediate shelter.’”
Riddick looked up, and that’s when she saw it.
“The sky just literally starts forming just right in front of us,” she said.
A tornado had touched down right in their path.
“I have to be accountable,” she said. “I have to be able to say I did everything I could to protect your baby no matter what. If this was my family, if these were my kids, what would I do?”
She had only moments to decide.
“One of the things you're told is if you're in a vehicle, get in a ditch,” she recalled. “But I'm thinking there's not a ditch deep enough. So the next best thing I could think of is a basement.”
“I start to think of the best route, and where I know that I've seen homes with a basement.”
She peeled into the first driveway they saw, the homeowners ran out to help everyone inside.
“I just gave them directions as to what we needed to do, to evacuate, go directly in,” Riddick said.
She immediately called the school, and every student’s parents, as they all waited out the storm.
Afterward, they saw the destruction. The tornado had torn right through their bus stops.
“I believe the good Lord just looked after us,” Riddick said. “He had our path already prepared, and fortunately we were in tune and followed him.”
The school district recognized Riddick with an award at their latest board meeting.
But like most heroes, she doesn’t consider herself to be one.
“It's been humbling,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
“I didn't feel like I did anything that another bus driver would not have done, that we don't do every day, that’s just what we do.”
The National Weather Service later confirmed what Riddick and the kids witnessed was an EF-2 tornado, with winds well over 100 miles an hour, strong enough to lift vehicles right off the ground.
Riddick and the students later signed and delivered a card for the homeowners who allowed them into their basement.