BC: Please help us build the memorial monument and fund the perpetual maintenance of this special place of remembrance and reflection. Please send your gift to YCHS Choir Memorial Monument c/o YCUSD 750 Palora Ave Yuba City CA 95991
FC: 1976 YCHS Choir | "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow."
1: We honor and celebrate the lives that were spared in the bus accident | And the light they have shone since
2: Annette Skidmore
3: A | Annette was 16 and a junior. She packed her clothes for the day's trip in a suitcase shared with her best friend and seatmate, Ruth Bowen. She was leaning over the aisle, hand on Larry Rooney's shoulder just before the crash. Trapped for an hour and a half, she suffered crushed ankles, a broken and displaced hip, crushed vertebrae in her back and neck, and facial cuts. Her mother didn't even recognize her in the hospital. Doctors didn't think she would ever walk again or have children. Today she walks, dances and has three children.
4: Valerie Gooch
5: Valerie was a sophomore and recovered from a head injury that doctors first thought would prevent her from completing high school. Things that used to come easy to her now took hours to learn and master. She went on to college and has worked in the banking industry.
6: Roberta, then 15, was elected President of next year's junior class. She was a home-run hitter with a Bobby Sox team and the choir's first soprano. While her injuries were relatively minor, she did have recurring back problems. She said the accident caused her to re-examine her life. Roberta became active in the Mormon Church, married and had eight children, and became a teacher. She was thrown from her horse in 2005 and died. She was named Missouri Teacher of the Year posthumously.
7: Roberta Stapley 1961-2005
8: Steve Eberhart 1959-2006
9: Steve was a junior and sharing a seat with his best friend Gary Vaught. He went into the Army after graduation and then settled in Santa Cruz where he was a member of the Ironworkers Union. In the fall of 2004 Steve was diagnosed with cancer. He received treatment but a year later was told the cancer had spread to his liver. In January of 2006 he moved back home to Yuba City to be with family. He died in his sleep two months later. Steve was able to cry for the first time after the accident during the 1996 dedication of the memorial in Martinez. Before his death, he went to Yuba City High School to visit the memorial on campus but was not allowed entry because school was in session.
10: Robin was a sophomore and daughter of a district school bus driver and a teacher. She suffered severe head injuries in the accident. After high school she went to electrician school and did some work in sales. She now lives with and cares for her elderly mother in the Pacific Northwest.
11: Robin Love
12: Mike Morgan
13: Mike Morgan, then 16 and a sophomore, remembered mostly the loss of his girlfriend and neighbor Danielle Cote. "We always ended up singing together," he would recall. They would practice marching with their clarinets together in the back yard and were excited about being in the marching band. She was sitting at the front of the bus and motioned for him to come up. "She waved me to come up there and I didn't want to get up and walk while the bus was moving." Mike's family was in the movie theatre business and he followed the family tradition.
14: Renee Watt
15: Renee was a 15-year old sophomore and would lose her best friend Joanne Matson that day. They would trade going camping with each other's family and she said they "were practically inseparable." Doctors first thought Renee's spinal cord had been severed but later decided it was badly bruised with four or five crushed vertebrae. She was in the hospital for a month, bedridden for another three months and learned to walk again with braces. Renee reflected upon the psychological scars and said, "It's real hard for me to get attached to people again."
16: Richard Ethington
17: Richard was 17 and the youngest in a musical Mormon family of eight. Because most other members of his church were sitting in the front of the bus, and because he was interested in the operation of big trucks and buses, he took a seat directly behind the driver. He recounted the actions of the bus driver in a 1996 news story. "I saw his hands grasp the wheel, like with everything that man had in him. I saw his face in the mirror. A look of terror and prayer." Today Richard lives and works in his hometown.
18: Great Grandfather | Perry Martin
19: Great Grandfather | Perry Martin was the boyfriend of Kris Huston since they played romantic leads opposite each other in the school production of "Fiddler on the Roof" a month prior. The senior and aspiring actor walked away from the crash with only minor injuries. Many of the survivors credit him with calming their panic during the minutes before help arrived. Perry is now married and an accomplished writer, director and producer in the Los Angeles area.
20: L | L | Jan Roberts
21: Great Grandparents | Jan Roberts was a 15 year old sophomore and daughter of a school teacher and music teacher. Her injuries included a bad concussion, collapsed lungs, mild acid burns and compression fractures in her neck and back. She went on to graduate from USC with a degree in music and teaches music in the Yuba City Unified School District. Jan is married and the mother of triplets.
22: Kim Kenyon was 16 and a junior. A bubbly extrovert, she played shortstop for two girls' softball teams. She was the youngest of five children and always one for a gag. She remembers crawling over the bodies of her classmates to the emergency exit and not understanding why she survived with only a deep cut to the knee, while others died. Her parents took her home the night of the accident and her father stayed up all night, holding her and crying with her.
23: Kim Kenyon
24: Dave Sauer
25: Dave was 16 and a junior. He was sitting over the right rear wheel of the bus singing "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" with his friends Gary Vaught and Steve Eberhart. He suffered a compound fracture of his leg that took a year and a half to heal. By then he had graduated and went to college to study international relations.
26: Stephanie was a senior and had plans for a stage career. Just before the accident, her seatmate Bobby Ortega asked if she would switch seats so he could look at the scenery. He died and she lived. "I do think I lived for a reason," she would later say. She lives in her hometown.
27: Stephanie McClain
28: Lori Johnson 1958-2009
29: Lori wasn't on the bus that day; she was riding in the choir director's car ahead of the bus when it went over the edge of the offramp. She drove to Shell Oil Company and got help and then collapsed on the floor. Lori endured numerous afflictions she believed were caused by the stress of that day. Her testimony of faith and story can still be found at: www.gloryofhiscross.org/ testimony5.html
30: Kelly had moved to Yuba City in the 7th grade and loved it because of the music program. After she was removed from the bus, paramedics inserted a breathing tube and administered oxygen. She couldn't speak but wanted to tell them the flow was too much. The oxygen kept her alive but the tube forever harmed her vocal chords. A true survivor, she harnessed her artistic talent and became a dancer.
31: Kelly McClung
32: Tom Randolph
33: Tom was a senior and Chris Young's boyfriend. His twin brother, also on the bus, did not survive. Three days after the crash, he dreamed that his dead classmates were marching to heaven singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic," one of the last songs the choir had publicly sung. He spoke at the memorial service a week later attended by 10,000 people. "All we can say is that our choir is the best choir in the whole world because God wanted and needed part of our choir." He later channeled his memories and artistic talent into a website to memorialize the event and the people of May 21, 1976 at: www.concordandtime.com
34: Mark Hughes
35: Mark was 16 and a junior. He also played guitar and brought it on the bus with him that day. He suffered a concussion and severe wrist cuts. He did not know so many classmates had died until he heard their names read off at a memorial a week later. In a 1986 interview he said..."I just thank God that I am alive and have a family and two beautiful boys."
36: Karen Burrow
37: Karen was a senior and badly injured in the accident. Many of her then closest friends did not survive. "Being able to communicate well with people that you are involved with is so very, very important because life can change in an instant." Karen is a cancer survivor and uses her artistic talent to conserve and promote the beauty of vintage clothes, jewelry and artifacts.
38: Colleen Kearns
39: Colleen, then 15, remembers being a good friend of Danielle Cote but asked her if she'd mind if she sat next to Cindy Graham "since her mom had just died." She nearly died and was in the hospital for almost three months. Today she has a great job, a wonderful husband, three children and 8 adorable grandchildren. She lives life each day thankful to be here.
40: Gary Vaught
41: Gary was 17, a junior, and earning A's and B's. His interests were in music and agriculture. His skull was fractured and doctors told his mother he would likely die before the night was out. He was back in school the next year earning good grades. Gary remembers a time from his 10-day coma where he spoke to a robed man who asked if he wanted to return and live his life or stay in a place where everyone was wearing white robes and singing. He chose to return to this life.
42: Donna Peacock
43: Donna was 15 and going steady with her seatmate Daniel Wright. Her best friends since junior high were Renee Watt and Joanne Matson. The three girls tried out for choir earlier that school year and were selected. Donna became a mother to three children.
44: Debra Abrams
45: Debra Abrams, then 19, was a senior and member of the Christian Center with seatmate Marla Azim. The youngest of eight children, she was hospitalized for five weeks after the accident and in a back brace for six months after that. In 1986 she said, "Most of the pain is gone now and I can't remember a thing about the crash." She became a wife, homemaker and mother of three children.
46: Christine Young
47: Chris, at 17, was the youngest of three children and longtime best friends with Pam Engstrom. In junior high, she switched from violin to cello so they wouldn't have to compete. Chris accepted her diploma weeks later after her boyfriend Tom Randolph pushed her to the podium in her wheelchair. Today she is married to Dean Estabrook and is a music teacher in the same school district where she grew up. They have a daughter who is also a music teacher.