Once in Houston, hero bus drivers end up following different paths
The first heads for L.A. to tell his story; the second might just settle here
By CYNTHIA LEONOR GARZA and EYDER PERALTA
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
When the federal government was struggling to get people out of New Orleans, two people made their way down Interstate 10 behind the wheel of yellow school buses. They pulled into the Astrodome parking lot hours before any of the chartered buses from the Superdome arrived.
Jabbar Gibson drove the first bus. Shelinda Clark, 34, arrived about an hour later.
The renegade bus driver became a national hero, a 20-year-old kid from the New Orleans projects, who did what the federal government couldn't do.
He was on Fox News and CNN; he was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey.
Early on, e-mails and phone calls poured in from people who wanted to help him.
More than a week later, Gibson stood on the second-floor balcony of a Howard Johnson hotel, angry.
"People are saying I'm a hero," he said, "but they ain't treating me like one."
He called FEMA and the American Red Cross, but he never stood in line. He's the father of two — a 9-month-old and a 3-year-old — and he hasn't heard from the mother of either.
"It's all been the run-around," the construction worker said. "Why can't somebody just give me a job and a place to live?"
About an hour after the bus driven by Gibson passed through the gates of the Astrodome, a weary Clark rolled in.
Two of her kids and her mother, Dornese Rumley, 52, were on the bus along with about a dozen other people from New Orleans' Fischer Housing Development.
They had a map and a small cassette player with a battery-operated radio and a broken antenna. A radio station said the Astrodome would take them in.
For now Clark and her family are in Houston. The children are enrolled in school and they're living in a north Houston apartment.
"I think the Lord just put us here for a reason. If things go better for me here, I'll just stay here," Clark said. One Aldine school official even talked to her about a job driving a school bus.
But life is less settled for Gibson. A man in Los Angeles promised to make a movie about his story, so Gibson left Houston.