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One split-second separates heroism from its alternative

op frI remember someone once telling me that all the seemingly trivial, decidedly unimportant choices you make every day prepare you for when the big thing comes along and the right decision might have life-changing consequences. Do right everyday for the right reasons and you’ll most likely do right when that moment arrives. At least we all should hope that’s the way it will turn out.

I think that admonition has more to do with morals and ethics than actual actions, but it still popped into my head when I was editing one of the stories in last week’s paper. I’m referring to the school bus driver in Macon County who may have saved the lives of children and staff at South Macon Elementary School with a singular act of courage.

Here’s the scenario: a man and a woman who were apparently high on some kind of drugs were roaming around South Macon Elementary School early one morning when a bus driver was warming up her bus. She had gone from the bus to her car, and when walking back to her bus she saw the pair and noticed that they were armed (deputies later found five loaded pistols).

The bus driver, a 28-year school system employee named Alice Bradley, ran to her car and at first hid, but then saw the suspects heading back toward her school bus, which was running. She cranked up her car and, instead of driving away, drove straight at the suspects as if she was going to run them over. Obviously fearing for their own lives, the pair fled away from the bus and the school.

“I thought about the kids. I thought, ‘I got little kids coming to school and 99 percent of them are my kids.’ He had a gun and he had a gun for a reason,” Bradley told a reporter for The Smoky Mountain News.

After Bradley — who doesn’t use a cell phone — got the couple to run away from the school, she jumped on her bus and used the handheld radio to call the school bus garage and alert co-workers as to what was happening. Deputies arrived in a few minutes, but the suspects did not go quietly. They were tased repeatedly during their arrest, and both suspects allegedly made threatening gestures toward deputies withtheir guns.

They had allegedly already shot a cat and told deputies they would have shot students and staff “if it was God’s will.” One gun was later found on the Bradley’s school bus.

“The reality of what could have happened is very frightening to all of us,” said Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland. “We’re very blessed because this could have been a very different outcome.”

I don’t want to build this up to be something bigger than it was. No one knows if the gun-wielding suspects would have hurt any students or staff, but Bradley actions were both brave and heroic. Thinking about an unarmed woman in her automobile turning the table on two gun-toting ne’er-do-wells by gunning her car toward them and chasing them away from her bus and her school — and ‘my children,’ as she put it — warms my heart and just makes me smile. I imagine white knuckles on the steering wheel, roaring engine, head ducked with eyes just peering over the steering wheel as she sped toward them. Hell yes!

Then, to top it off, she nonchalantly gets on her bus and completes her route, picking up children and not worrying about any fanfare associated with her actions. 

What else can you say? Fantastic.

•••

Then there is the father who caught up with and beat a black bear as he was dragging his 16-year-old son away from their campsite.

That story, also in last week’s paper, was bizarre because black bears almost never attack humans. What was more memorable, though, are the father’ actions. As in the case of the bus driver, he had just a moment to go on the offensive and attack the bear or just watch as his son was being drug off, his head clutched in the bear’s jaws.

The son is expected to recover from his wounds, but the father’s bravery should not go unnoticed. Again, we’d all like to think we’d do the same in a similar situation, but a split second separates heroism from its alternative. This father likely saved his son’s life and comes out a hero.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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