CHILDREN: Alone in the Dark

The big blue and white bus, with 20 passengers aboard, was 2½ hours out of Dallas, pounding north along two-laned U.S. Highway 69-75 through a heavy nighttime thunderstorm, when it suddenly skidded off the road and slammed sideways into a dead tree that broke with an eerie crunch. No one was seriously injured. Then freckled-faced Shirley Stith, 23, screamed out for her 18-month-old daughter Melanie Jane, who had been thrown through a hole in the bus's side.

Shirley Stith was the first person out of her seat. She leaped through the hole. As she touched the ground, there was a...

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