SEATTLE — For the first time in exactly two months and 15 days, veteran King County Metro bus driver Eric Stark, who was hailed for his bravery as a lifesaving hero--, grabbed the wheel of his bus and climbed back into his familiar seat.
"I was a little nervous when I started out,'' he said, "but I still remember how to drive a bus."
Stark might be expected to be a little nervous, because the last time he was on duty on his regular route, according to Seattle police, 33-year-old Tad Michael Norman went on a shooting rampage. Norman is accused of randomly killing two men, injuring a woman and firing two shots through the windshield of Stark's bus. One of the bullets ripped through Stark's chest.
And yet, his first reaction was to back the bus up, get the passengers behind him to safety and pull the emergency switch to alert police. His actions led to honors and accolades for heroism from Seattle to Olympia. But Stark says the same belief that helped him serve others that day got him through this day.
"I believe in a God who's always taking care of me and my family and that's how I get through it," said the former pastor, who believes he's ultimately driving a spiritual route to serve others.
"If (God) wants me to continue to drive a bus, I will. If he wanted me to die that day, I'd be OK with that, too." That's really how I deal with the trauma," he said.
One of the passengers aboard Stark's bus during the March shooting now calls him a friend. Danae Wright decided to ride with Stark on his return to work. "It was nice to actually get to do that first time, and make it happen," she said.
"In that moment, seeing somebody being so selfless, he didn't hesitate to start getting the bus out of the way, and just to know that he cared more about the safety of others just speaks a lot to his character," Wright said.
Stark's wife, Kim, and his 8-year-old daughter, Aleithia, were among many on hand to celebrate the comeback of a man who is at peace moving people behind the wheel. "Yes, he's a hero," Aleithia said.
Stark said he's open to other opportunities inspired by the shooting. One interest is volunteering to be a chaplain for the Seattle Police Department, since he formed relationships with police officers and paramedics that day.
"But this is a great job," he said. "I enjoy what I do."
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