“After seeing pictures of the bus, none of us should have lived.”

Six years after seeing two friends die and learning how to walk again, Bearkat Scott Stimson still does not remember the worst experience of his life.

“Almost everyone can remember their worst memory, but I don’t know what mine is. This accident was so bad that it is my worst memory, but I don’t remember it. It really sucks because I have no idea what happened. I went through it and I almost died, and I can’t tell you about it.”

On Dec. 21, 1999, Scott Stimson, currently a senior at Sam Houston State University, was halfway into his junior year at Cy-Creek High School when he was coming home from a church-sponsored ski trip in the Colorado Mountains. Instead of watching a movie during the long ride home, Stimson decided to listen to a punk rock CD. That was the last thing he remembered.

What Stimson does not remember is the bus accident that killed three people, seriously injured 33 and left 24 others with minor injuries. According to the highway accident brief by the National Transportation Safety Board, the bus was heading east, away from Canon City, Colo., on State Highway 50, when it began to fishtail. The driver recovered from the fishtail, but 30 seconds later, he lost control of the vehicle on a curve. The bus veered off of the right side of the road, hit a light reflector, veered back to the left, spun around 180 degrees clockwise and rolled two to three times down a 40-foot embankment. Around 250 feet down the mountain, it finally stopped on its roof.

At its final resting place, only a few people remained inside the bus. Most of the students, including Stimson, were thrown from the vehicle onto the rocky mountainside. The excruciating pain that he must have felt is something he does not remember, but his friend Dustin described to Stimson that he was screaming so much from all the pain that they all thought he was going to die.

Disoriented from the accident and laying on the mountainside, Dustin tried to ask Stimson if he knew his name. Stimson was told that he answered, “I’m Joseph, the Son of God.”

Suffering from severe head trauma, a hip that was broken in three places and deep cuts and bruises on his arms, back, legs and chin, Stimson did not know who he was. When he arrived at the hospital, Stimson was told that he had to be sedated because he kept trying to rip the IVs out of his arms.

Not able to be identified because he did not know his name and his wallet was not on him, Stimson said his parents flew to Colorado knowing that he was unaccounted for and not much else. His parents were with him for a couple of days before he was coherent.

Suffering from acute amnesia, he has no memories of the actual accident itself and the few days immediately following.

“The first thing I remember after the accident is waking up with a tube going down my throat, and I had four nurses standing over me. My first thought was that I needed water because I felt so dehydrated. I was awake for maybe four seconds,” Stimson said.

He really did not start to become aware of what really happened until Christmas, and he was faced with a harsh reality; his doctors told him that they were not really sure if he would ever be able to walk again.

Being wheeled out in a wheelchair on Christmas Day, Stimson and others from the accident were greeted by a group of students who had also known what it was like to face the death of friends and overcome a traumatic situation. Students from Columbine High School came to visit the students while they were in the hospital to give them not only Christmas cards but words of encouragement.

Even though he used a wheelchair on Christmas, it only took until the next day for Stimson to decide that not walking was not really an option.

“I like walking,” Stimson said. “That’s something I’m very fond of and everyday I would be on my walker going down the hallways, forcing myself to walk again.”

Even with some physical therapy, Stimson still had to use a walker when he came back to Houston but by the time the spring school semester started, he was able to use crutches. He did not feel out of place going back to school on crutches because around 14 students who were in the accident went to his high school.

Despite the horrific nature of the accident, Stimson believed that it could have been worse.

“Some miraculous things really did happen,” Stimson said. “It hadn’t been snowing all week until the night before and that morning, so instead of being thrown out of the bus on hard ice, there was a layer of powdered snow to cushion the blow.”

Some of the students on the trip, Stimson said, believed they were helped after the accident by one of God’s angels.

“Supposedly these two girls were in shock after the accident and were trying to look for help,” Stimson said. They went to the bottom of the hill and saw a guy standing there on the other side of a fence and said to him ‘We need help.’ The man pointed up toward the road, and when they looked back, he wasn’t there.”

Looking back on the accident, Stimson knows that he was lucky.

“In all honesty, after seeing pictures of the bus, none of us should have lived. It was a really bad wreck and the fact that only three people died was amazing,” Stimson said.

The life that he lives today and how he lives it is a direct result of his experience. His outlook changed from being quiet and reserved to being a leader who likes to take advantage of every opportunity thrown at him.

“If I died, I just wouldn’t want to be another person,” Stimson said. “I want to make a difference, and that’s one thing that changed in my life. I went from ‘Hey, I’m here,’ to ‘I want my life to mean something.'”

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