Just as my mom turned onto Main Street, an angry mob surrounded our car and began to violently rock it back and forth. I remember the shock and terror as my mother told me to stay calm and pray. I was only 12 and couldn’t fathom why this was happening. Eventually, the mob stopped rocking our car and moved to the car behind us.
I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest, but we made it home just as our mayor announced the city was unsafe and no one was to be on the streets for the next three days. I began to realize the magnitude of the situation, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine history was being made that very day.
Hate seemed to ooze from everywhere and infect everyone. When our pastor and deacons made the decision to guard the front door of our church during our worship services to turn away any person with a different skin color, I became confused. I just couldn’t imagine Jesus blocking the door to our church.
It wasn’t long before the mandate to desegregate the schools became law and half our teachers were reassigned to predominantly black schools while half of their teachers were reassigned to our school. This decision caused a huge uprising that worsened when it was further decided black students would begin attending our school, too. I didn’t understand why this was a problem, although everyone else seemed to be up in arms to the point of threatening to boycott our school while others made threats to physically harm the new students.
My mom became worried about the tense situation and feared for my safety. She decided the only way she could make sure I would be safe was to train to be a school bus driver and transport the new students and me to school beginning the first day of the mandated integration. And that’s exactly what she did.
I sat behind her on the huge yellow bus while she stopped for a group of very scared black students. As they stepped onto the bus, my mom smiled at them and cheerfully bid them good morning. One girl looked terrified as she sat alone with quivering lips and shaking hands. I couldn’t imagine what she must be feeling, knowing she would soon step off the bus into an angry crowd just waiting to call her names and to block her from entering our school.
When a tear began to roll down her cheek, I quietly moved to her seat and sat beside her. She looked startled but soon realized I was there to comfort her. As my mom pulled the bus up to our school, a mob of parents and students shouted obscenities and derogatory names at the new students on our bus.
The girl began to sob, and the unfairness of the situation came over me. I smiled at her as we stood to exit the bus. I whispered for her to stay close to me as we nervously stepped into the jeering mob. She followed me into the building, where we quickly made our way into a classroom to escape the hate.
Little did I know that girl would become one of my best friends throughout high school. All I knew that day was she was God’s child and she needed a friend.
Years have passed since the unrest of the ’60s, but I’ll never forget the love of a mom driving a big yellow school bus that left the indelible print of equality and God’s love for all humankind on the heart of a confused 12-year-old girl.
Laurie Taylor is minister to families with young children at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.