Ten hours into our bus ride home, my heavy eyelids began to droop; it was time to settle into sleep for the night. Just as I was tuning out the soft chatter surrounding me, a loud POP! brought me back to consciousness. Any sense of drowsiness attempting to lull me into a slumber had been replaced with paralyzing pangs of anxiety. People surrounding me started questioning what had just happened.
As I felt the bus slow and pull over to the shoulder of the road, an unforgettable nausea-inducing scent of burning rubber made me audibly gag. What could possibly be causing that smell? I quickly realized my answer was only a few feet away. My friends’ hysterical screams alerted me to my current reality; the bus was on fire. My thoughts slowly processed the nightmare surrounding me. The bus I was on, was on fire…The fire was in the back of the bus…I was in the back of the bus.
I apprehensively turned my head to the left, knowing my gaze would confirm what my brain already knew; I was only a few feet away from the flames violently shooting up the windows. My nightmare-turned-reality continued as I witnessed the panicked people packing into the aisle. We would never be able to safely walk off the bus. Time began ticking as the tangible heat of the flames sealed our fate and the fear of the bus exploding gripped me. We only had one option if we wanted to survive. Jump.