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St. Joseph community gathers in prayer after bus crash (Video)

By chirst
Oct. 13, 2012 at 5:13 a.m.
Updated Oct. 14, 2012 at 5:14 a.m.

From left, Cody Janak, Analise Ybarbo and Carly Boles hold candles at the prayer vigil organized at St. Joseph High School. The vigil was organized by St. Joseph student Mariah Clay for the volleyball team after the team crashed on their way to a match in Austin. Students and community members gathered to pray for a speedy recovery and safe travels to future games.


They were there to celebrate a miracle.

Karen Hempel, mother of two St. Joseph High School volleyball girls, fought tears at a candlelight ceremony Saturday night, grateful to God for protecting her daughters in a bus crash earlier in the morning.

"Their dad and I made a flying trip to the crash site, and when you drive up on something like that, you are just amazed people are alive," Hempel said.

The Victoria mom was one of about 150 people who came to celebrate the lives of all 32 people on the St. Joseph bus who came away relatively unscathed from a rollover crash Saturday on U.S. Highway 183 North.

The candlelight ceremony at St. Joseph High School was planned by Mariah Clay, junior at St. Joseph, after she heard about the crash.

"I was very shocked and wanted to help in any way I could, and so I just prayed for them," she said.

Mariah said she wanted to get students and parents together to pray for the girls, even after she heard no one was critically injured.

"I prayed for them to heal quickly and so then I thought we could all come here and pray together for their healing and all the bus trips for St. Joseph," she said.

Emily Simmang, a sophomore on the junior varsity team, said the vigil demonstrates how students at St. Joseph are a family.

"Everyone is comforting us and just helping the pain, physical and emotional," Emily said. "It was sad because during the whole ceremony I just kept picturing the bus flipping, but I was so happy to be OK and to be here - but it is still a scary memory to have."

Principal Bill McArdle said he was proud of how the students came together after the wreck.

"Today was a miracle," McArdle said. "And if you had been there and seen the bus, and to have everyone walk away without any broken bones or fatalities, it was a miracle."

The ceremony opened with prayers for healing and safety and ended by recognizing the volleyball girls in the center of the crowd.

"It speaks to our faith and to who they are as young people," McArdle said. "What an unselfish thing for them to do, to come out on a Saturday night, when there are so many other things for them to do, and to be here for each other."



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