Alabama high school student Jesse Frank was riding the bus home last month when he suddenly felt the vehicle start to veer off the road.
Children on the bus shrieked as they watched the driver, who was suffering a medical emergency, collapse behind the wheel — but the Pell City High School senior remained calm. The teenager sprung into action, bolting to the front of the bus and taking control of the steering wheel.
“I looked back at her [the driver] and she had her head rolled back, hands off the steering wheel, and I was like, yeah, I should do something,” Frank told CBS affiliate WIAT.
Frank used one of his hands to push down on the brake until the bus came to a halt. He then dialed 911 and waited for assistance before removing his hand from the pedal. After help arrived, officials say, Frank stuck around to comfort the younger children who were shaken up.
“It didn’t seem that complicated in my head. I just planned out a few simple steps. I didn’t think it would be that hard to execute them,” said Frank to WIAT. “There were several elementary students crying. One of them asked to borrow my cellphone to make a phone call to their parents.”
School officials are now hailing Frank as a hero and crediting him with helping save the lives of 38 students on board — most of them elementary school students.
“There was no surprise, you know, if there was anybody out there who could go out there and take an action, he would be the one at the front of the list,” his principal, Tony Dowdy, told WIAT.
At a recent City Council meeting, Pell City Mayor Bill Pruitt presented Frank with a key to the city.
“Jesse is a hero to all of those children and their families, and he is certainly a hero to us,” the mayor wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “When asked for a comment, Jesse said that he didn’t think what he had done was really that big of a deal at the time. I don’t guess you would when helping others is just part of who you are.”
Dressed in his ROTC uniform, Frank humbly accepted the award.
“It gives me an expectation to meet, in a good way,” he said. “Now that eyes are on me, in a manner of speaking, I feel like I’ve got to represent myself.”