CHATTANOOGA (WATE) – Two days after a fatal bus crash claimed the lives of six children in Chattanooga, Governer Bill Haslam made the trip from Nashville to visit their school.
Wednesday was a quiet day at Woodmore Elementary School. The students were out for the Thanksgiving holiday, but by the flag pole there was a makeshift memorial.
Governor Bill Haslam arrived Wednesday morning to speak to grieving teachers and faculty.
“Another set of hard days for this community. You’re not supposed to have elementary classrooms with empty desks,” Haslam said.
Five students will not be returning to Woodmore as grief takes over the whole community.
More coverage: Chattanooga school bus crash
“I’m so grateful for folks like these professional educators who were immediately on the scene reassuring children with familiar faces, with neighbors who came out and held kids’ hands, with first responders that came and saw things that nobody wants to see,” Haslam said.
With the kids out of school administrators are still spending time there to help their students and families cope with what happened.
“I think right now our focus is to continue to give the grief support that’s necessary and needed for our students. We’ve had that support here. We have that support here today, and we will continue to have that support,” said Woodmore Principal Brenda Adamson-Cothran.
A memorial at the site of the also continues to grow as the debate reignites: should seat belts be required on school buses?
“I think it’s time for all of us to step back, all of us, local school boards, the state, and look at the whole school bus process from how we hire drivers to how we ensure safety of the equipment to whether there’s seat belts on those buses,” Haslam said.
The focus in the short term is helping the school and the community deal with the aftermath of tragedy.
“You go into a classroom where you know a little 9-year-old girl sat on Monday and she’s not coming back to a class. This is real, hard, emotional stuff for people who invest their lives in kids,” Haslam said.
Haslam also planned to make a stop at Erlanger Hospital to visit with the children who are still recovering. Six kids were still in critical condition and six others in stable.