KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- "I was shocked. I really was shocked," said a beaming D'Anthony Gildon.
Thursday night, dozens of proud parents packed what normally would be a routine, fairly quiet Hickman Mills School Board meeting with all smiles and non-stop applause for Gildon, a brave, Kansas City school bus driver, turned "hero."
"Man, I had no idea. I'd like to say thanks to the Board, the families and the community for giving me this recognition, but most of all, I want to give honor to God," said an overjoyed Gildon whose bright smile lit up the room.
Gildon, who's been driving for Apple Bus Company for the last three years, thought he was going to the monthly meeting to meet the Hickman Mills School Board members, but within minutes he soon learned he was the big honoree soon to be showered with several, unexpected gifts.
"On behalf of the Hickman Mills School District, I'd we also have a plaque for you in recognition of your bravery. I can't thank you enough for saving our students," said an exuberant Yolanda Cargile, the Superintendent for Hickman Mills Schools.
The beautiful plaque from the school district, a prestigious proclamation from the Missouri House of Representatives and several gift cards also from the Hickman Mills School Board would be the nice gifts that instantly filled D'Anthony Gildon's hands.
For the many proud parents and grateful school leaders, it was their way to say "thank you" to the brave school bus driver, who last month sprung into action and kept 30 Warford Elementary boys and girls all safe when their school bus suddenly turned into a rolling, ball of fire.
"It was scary for all of us. I still can see that fire and thick smoke, still thinking about the kids and all of the what if's and what could have happened," said D'Anthony Gildon as he wipes tears from his eyes.
Gildon says after flames engulfed the school bus, he instantly pulled over and started pushing the frightened children toward a rear exit, getting them all off safely, just in the nick of time.
"I was checking under seats, checking every seat, grabbing backpacks. I also yelled to a smart, little sixth grader to keep that back door open and help the kids get out. He helped me save all of them," Gildon recalled.
"I just am so grateful for what he did. We consider our students as our own children and he loved on our students and did what he needed to do, reacted quickly and made sure all of them were safe," said Erica Thomas, Interim Principal at Warford Elementary School.
Gildon's proud Mom also in the crowd, taking non-stop pictures with her cell phone of her son, this community's "hero."
"I just thank God for giving me the knowledge and the ability and get the kids safe," said a humble D'Anthony Gildon.