Climbing aboard a school bus is an act of courage for a particular group of women.
These women are boarding the bus they were riding on 36 years ago when they were kidnapped at gunpoint and buried alive.
Another woman said, “It's just pain to be on the bus again and to relive it.”
INSIDE EDITION has reunited the women, all victims of infamous Chowchilla kidnapping, 26 children and their bus driver kidnapped in the biggest mass abduction in U.S history.
This is the first time the women have seen the bus since that fateful day in 1976. INSIDE EDITION found the bus today stored in a dusty farm warehouse in Chowchilla, a quiet town in California’s Central Valley.
Jennifer Hyde and Darla Neal were both nine years old when they were kidnapped. Three masked men with shotguns abducted them and their friends as they were on the way to school.
Hyde said, “One of the guys came and had a shotgun pointed to my head.”
Neal said, “I didn't know if they were going to shoot us or if they were going to kill us.”
The kidnappers, all from wealthy families, planned their sinister plot for 18 months. They were inspired by this scene in the Clint Eastwood classic, Dirty Harry.
The kidnappers took the children to a remote rock quarry 100 miles away. They locked them in a moving van, which they buried there.
For 16 long hours, the 26 children and their bus driver were buried alive, thinking they were all going to die together. But their plan was foiled when the hero bus driver stacked up mattresses left in the van, enabling them to climb out of a hole in the roof.
Hyde said, “The roof started to cave in and some of the older kids decided we were going to die trying to get out.”
The kidnappers were quickly captured and sentenced to life in prison. But now, the victims are again living in fear because one of the kidnappers, Richard Schoenfeld, has just been released.
INSIDE EDITION asked Schoenfeld, “Is there anything you want to say to them?”
He replied, “I wish them well.”
INSIDE EDITION tracked down Schoenfeld, now 57 years old and living with his mother in this upscale neighborhood outside San Francisco.
INSIDE EDITION said, “A lot of them have psychological scarring.”
Schoenfeld replied, “Yes, that's what I’ve heard.”
Schoenfeld was released in June. The parole board deemed him harmless. Alameda County prosecutor Jill Klinge, who represents the victims is outraged. Another may be set free after Thanksgiving.
She said, “It's one of the most horrific crimes I’ve dealt with.”
The women say they still have nightmares about that dark day 36 years ago.
Hyde said, “I have to turn a nightlight on every day when I lay down to go to bed.”
Neal said, “I have anxiety today. I have panic attacks.”
In one final act of defiance, the women sign their names on the bus and leave messages for bus driver Ed Ray who died in 2010.
“You will forever be my hero,” says one.
“God bless Ed Ray,” said another.
Rebecca Dailey said she will never be able to forget that horrible day on the bus.
She said, “They took our childhood. Not every child gets buried alive.”