YUBA CITY -- Forty years ago this month, 29 lives were lost, most of them high school students, when a school bus overturned on a Bay Area freeway off-ramp. Now with the anniversary approaching, many with direct ties to one of the worst tragedies in Yuba City history gathered to honor the victims.
While the newspaper headlines have turned yellow with age, it still pains many in Yuba City to hear the names of those who lost their life in a school bus accident 40 years ago.
"[We] tried to put it behind us and move on, and most of us, that really just didn't work," said Lisa Covington Bubienko, who organized today's event at the memorial placed at City Hall 5 years ago.
Bubienko was a sophomore at Yuba City High School in May of 1976 and knew almost everyone on the bus. "I mean every one of them. Laurene Killingsworth, I have her piano in my living room," Bubienko said.
That year, the Yuba City High School choir was traveling to Martinez by bus for a weekend exchange program with a high school there. Just after the bus passed the Carquinez Strait, it started to have mechanical problems.
"The bus driver took an exit, to try and find help, and that's when the bus went over the off ramp," Covington Bubieno said.
While 22 people were able to escaped with their lives, sadly 28 students and one teacher died.
"Everything changed in that moment on that day," said Penny Potts, who was just 5 years old when the accident happened. But she remembers her brother, Lawrence Rooney, who was just 16-years-old at the time, didn't come home. " I remember my parents crying and being upset."
Now all these years later she still wonders who her brother may have become.
"I don't have a lot of memories of my brother, and that's the hardest part for me—wondering what kind of relationship we might have had through out the years," Potts said.
Many of the friends and families of the victims from 1976 tell us that coming out every year and honoring them like this has been very therapeutic and helped them dealing with their pain over the last four decades.