Charles “Chuck” Poland was doing the job he loved, driving a school bus full of children in rural Alabama, his home that he also loved. And then, in a quick flurry of bullets, he was dead. He gave his life to protect the children he loved from a gunman demanding two children be given to him.
Charles’ life began on July 16, 1946, in Payette, Idaho — a town along the Oregon border. For 43 of his 66 years, he was married to Mary Janice Poland, a substitute teacher, father of two and grandfather of two. After retiring he took up substitute driving, finally taking a full-time position four years before his death. It wasn’t a job, it was fun. He loved hearing about his “children’s” days and being there for them. He treated all of his “children” as his own. “They were his youngins’.” “He was their paw-paw.”
On January 29, 2013, just after 3:30 p.m., Jimmy Lee Dykes entered Poland’s bus and told Charles that we wanted to take two children from the bus. Charles refused to let him take the children and challenged the armed man to shoot him, while blocking access to the aisle of the bus with his body. Dykes fired five shots, killing Poland, then grabbed the first child he could reach.
Poland gave his life to protect his “youngins’.” 21 students passed over his body to exit the bus and all mourned their friend, “paw-paw” and hero. In the end, all students were safe, including the child that was abducted.