Ramona Self seemed surprised at how emotional she became while calling up memories of the Chokio Bus Rescue.
She wasn’t the youngest nor the eldest member of her blended family on the bus that day. Perhaps it is because she was at the age of 8, in the 3rd grade, and able to understand enough about the situation to understand its import, yet not old enough to put the event in perspective.
Ramona recalls that the roads near the family’s farm home were dirt roads, which could make travel difficult. “It got kinda rough going at times during the winter.”
“I remember it being quite cold that morning,” Ramona says. Ramona remembers being “kinda glad” that the students were being sent home not long after arriving at school.
“They got us on the bus. Unfortunately I was wearing a dress,” Ramona said. “We dropped off a few children, and then the bus just conked out.”
Ramona said that when the bus heater went out “it started getting quite chilly. The bus driver [Clayton Kolling] told us to stay on the bus, that he will walk to a farmhouse.”
Later, the need to go to the bathroom made uncomfortable moments as students filed outside in groups to find relief.
Ramona says she was aware that older students were writing “wills,” or notes to their parents. “I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want it to come true.”
Instead, Ramona remembers talking to her older siblings about her worries. “They said, ‘Don’t worry, they’re coming to get us.’”
“I tried not to bug them. They kept things on the “up” side, by chatting. I was wondering what was happening and when the driver would be back.”
Ramona recalls that when Kolling returned to the bus from his first foray, he told the waiting students he had reached a farmhouse and called for help. “Help is on the way,” she remembers him saying and candy bars and blankets were distributed among the students.
“The wind was blowing terribly,” she said.
When the rescuers arrived, she was happy to see that her step-father, Almond Drone Sr., was part of the team.
“They had blankets, hot chocolate, and they got us transferred to the other bus, which was warm,” Ramona said.
Upon arriving at the school, Ramona wanted to change out of her damp clothes. She doesn’t know how clothes were available, but she recalls the relief of changing into dry clothes.
She also remembers someone making a public statement giving God thanks for the safety of the students and rescuers.
Later all six children and their father/stepfather Almond Drone Sr., stayed in one home in town together. To this day, Ramona remembers what the home looks like and can describe it easily.