To cleanse the palate, I’m torn between thinking this is my favorite story of this year and my favorite story of any year.
It happened early in the morning on May 7, just outside Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. An Army trainee named Jovan Collazo was reportedly seen trying to flag cars down on the interstate. When none stopped, he headed for a nearby school bus station and waited with the kids. When the bus pulled up, they boarded — and so did he, pulling a rifle and ordering the driver to take him to the next town. Presumably he was going AWOL and, in his desperation to get away from the fort, had opted to … kidnap a bus full of children.
The driver did what he was told. But then Collazo’s plan hit a snag: The kids, especially the younger kids, started asking him questions.
And so he did what any adult would do upon finding himself suddenly facing a group of inquisitive kindergarteners. He cracked.
“As we were traveling, I guess he realized there were several students on the bus — kind of scattered throughout,” Corbin said. “He decided to move all the students up front so he could keep us all in close proximity, and when he did that, especially some of my kindergarteners, they started asking questions.”
The students, according to Corbin, asked if the man was a soldier to which he “hesitantly answered — ‘yes.’”
“They asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ He never did have an answer for this one. They asked, was he going to hurt them? He said ‘No.’ They asked, ‘Are you going to hurt our bus driver?’ He said, ‘No. I’m going to put you off the bus,’” Corbin recalled. “He sensed more questions coming and I guess something clicked in his mind and he said, ‘Enough is enough already,’ and he told me to ‘Stop the bus, and just get off.’”
One Twitter pal imagined the kids asking “why?” to everything the kidnapper said. I had an image of one saying “I need to pee” repeatedly as Collazo’s head began to pound.
In the end, according to the bus driver, the hijacking lasted six minutes. The guy lost his mind after just four miles and told everyone to get off. I probably would have pried open the door and thrown myself onto the highway after two.
All I can think now is that if we could somehow harness the awesome irritating power of six-year-olds endlessly asking questions, we could end global terrorism.
We’re left to wonder how much of Collazo’s impulse to ditch the kids was due to frustration at being peppered with questions and how much was due to guilt. It’s worth noting that his rifle turned out to be unloaded; it seems he wasn’t out to hurt anyone, and having the kids ask him if he was may have triggered something in him to end their ordeal. Obviously he’s going to do hard time for a mass kidnapping, but the fact that this didn’t end in a much, much darker way is something he can use at sentencing to try to get a break. He did a terrible thing but there was enough humanity left in him not to make it considerably more terrible.