Renita Smith was driving the afternoon route for a Glenarden Woods Elementary School bus on Sept. 12 when she smelled smoke.
After seeing flames in her rearview mirror, Smith safely evacuated the 20 young students from the burning school bus and then went back inside to ensure no one had been left behind. Shortly after she exited, the bus went up in a blaze on the 9600 block of 51st Avenue, according to reports.
At its meeting Tuesday, the College Park City Council recognized Smith and residents of the north College Park neighborhood that assisted the schoolchildren.
“I’ve only been mayor for about nine months and I’ve had the honor and privilege of greeting many people in our community … but no honor has been as much to have you here tonight after what you did for these kids,” Mayor Patrick Wojahn said to Smith Tuesday.
Neighbors and nearby residents — including District 1 Councilman Fazlul Kabir — sheltered the children in their yards and allowed them to use their phones to call their parents.
“I also want to thank … some residents who helped in sheltering the children,” said Kabir. “One of our residents … claimed she came over with her kitchen fire extinguisher.”
Smith, whose act of bravery has made national news, was presented with flowers and a plaque detailing the council’s recognition, while surrounded by parents and some of the children who were on her bus.
“I am so overwhelmed with joy in my heart,” Smith said. “It has been unexplainable, everything that has been taking place, and, you know, after everything that happened on that day, to be standing here and to be able to be honored.”
Cecelia Jones-Bowlding, the principal at Glenarden Woods Elementary School, called Smith a hero.
“It’s wonderful when … we see the love of community,” she said. “It’s just a fantastic and wonderful thing to see.”