Students return to St. Sebastian’s after harrowing bus accident

Only hours after the roof of their tour bus was sheared off when it failed to clear a bridge in Alexandria, Va., students of St. Sebastian’s in Needham somberly laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the nation’s capital on Nov. 14.

Ten students out of the group of 29 were injured in the incident and taken to area hospitals, with nine treated and released later on Sunday and one kept overnight for observation.

According to headmaster William I. Burke III, the group continued touring on Sunday evening, visiting several national monuments and memorials. The hospitalized student was released the following afternoon and joined the group in Georgetown Nov. 15.

"I am amazed at the courage and resilience of the kids," said David Edmond, an English teacher and director of admissions at St. Sebastian's, who chaperoned the Washington, D.C. fieldtrip. "It was definitely a pretty harrowing experience," he added, expressing gratitude for all of the passers-by on the highway that stopped to help, many of whom he will never get an opportunity to thank.

The tour group, consisting of four chaperones and 25 students, was on its way to visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon home when the bus crashed into an arched bridge on the George Washington Parkway early Sunday morning. According to Burke, a federal investigation regarding the incident is ongoing.

The group returned to Massachusetts on the evening of Nov. 16 and a service of thanksgiving was held at the school the following day. At the service, the school community gathered to welcome back its 29 members with hymns and prayers of gratitude, according to Burke. The chaperones received guardian angel pins, and prayer cards were also distributed among the students.

"I read aloud a note from one of the caregivers at Mount Vernon Hospital, where several of the students had been treated, that said there were only four words she could think of to describe our group of kids -- courage, strength, dignity and courtesy," Burke said.

Due to parent-teacher conferences, St. Sebastian students didn’t have class on Nov. 18 — a day that Edmond said most of the group used to catch up on rest and recollect themselves.

"I hope that next week we can all come back refreshed and ready to get on with our lives," he said.

AP Materials contributed to this report.