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Kristen Graham covers the Philadelphia School District. A native Philadelphian and a product of the school system and Temple University she has written about everything from crime and county government to education since joining the Inquirer in 2000.

Kristen is a Pulitzer Prize winner, part of a team whose “Assault on Learning” series about violence in the Philadelphia schools won the 2012 prize for public service for the Inquirer. Henry School and their chaperones, were injured in the crash Monday. From his room at Children Hospital of Philadelphia, Elijah told his story Tuesday, pausing occasionally to wince in pain from the concussion, cuts, and severed tendons and nerves he had sustained in his hands.

The boy, who loves anime and music and can wait for his eighth grade graduation, was excited about the class trip to Washington. He been talking about it for weeks, and on Monday morning, he got up at his Mount Airy home earlier than his father ever remembered him rising.

was happy, laughing, Elijah said.

And then, the crash. After the bus overturned, Elijah was thrown from his seat. His instinct was to grip his seat, but his hands slipped off. He hit his head and glass sheared his hands and face, but his fall kept a classmate from being more seriously injured, Elijah said.

He looked at his bloody hands. He tried to find his glasses. He tried to hold his phone.

wanted to call my mom and dad, but my phone screen was cracked, and I was bleeding too much, said Elijah.

He dropped his phone. In just a few minutes, someone came to rescue him a man from the three busloads of police officers and recruits that coincidentally were traveling behind the Henry bus. They carried him out of the wreck to an ambulance. Someone wrapped his head and hands. Everything hurt, he said.

Philadelphia Police Officer Thomas Gill, a 28 year veteran of the department, was on one of the buses. At first, he thought the flipped vehicle was a truck. Then he saw the bodies scattered on the highway. He and nearly everyone else was off their bus in a flash.

Gill and a handful of others climbed a steep and overgrown embankment searching for people who might have been ejected. None hesitated to help.

Clara Mae Daniels approached Elijah. Daniels is the widow of William L. Daniels, a Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty in 1975, and the mother of Lee Daniels, creator of the TV show Empire. She raised five children alone after her husband was killed.

She was also on one of the police buses. The great grandmother instinct was to head straight for those children, many sobbing and shaking yards from the ruined bus.

was so hurt, Daniels said of Elijah. had a gash over his head. His hands I saw the meat coming out of his hands.

There were first aid kits on the police buses, and Daniels and others ripped them open, using bandages and blankets where they could. She pressed cloths to Elijah forehead, trying to stanch the blood until medics arrived.

Some people had not even a scratch on them. Others, like Elijah, who had sat on the left side of the bus, were much worse off.

lot of them were dozing off to sleep, Daniels said. of them said the same thing they thought they were dreaming.

Daniels called Elijah mom.

Lisa Moton was at work at Independence Blue Cross when Daniels phoned her. There was an accident, Daniels said; her son was hurt, but he would be OK. She put him on the phone.

just jumped into action, said Moton. She called Stephen Allen, Elijah father, and the two got in the car and drove to Maryland as fast as they could. Both wept.

Allen steadied when he heard his son voice, he said.

switched into dad mode, said Allen. was calming him.

Elijah was treated at a Maryland hospital first, then airlifted to Children’s Hospital his first helicopter ride, he said.

On Tuesday, Elijah was in pain, his hands and arms wrapped in thick layers of gauze almost up to his elbows. He is scheduled to have surgery on his right hand Wednesday.

just feel better when we get him home, said Moton. She and Allen slept at the hospital with their son, staying up all night to help him get settled. Elijah had nightmares about falling off a cliff, they said.

They held his arms when he got stitches for the deep gash on his face, playing calming music to soothe him.

They hope for the best for Brittany Jacobs, the special education teacher on the bus who was critically injured, and for the other four children still hospitalized. They have questions about the car that struck the Henry bus: Why was it going so fast?
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