By Vivian Shipe
KNOXVILLE, TN — A Christmas Story: The Night The Bus Stopped in Knoxville: Everyone beneath the sound of my voice, come with me….we are taking a trip into the future….all around you are people sitting in seats side by side…they are soldiers, young parents, grandparents, Abuelas, YAYAs, BIBIs, TIAs, immigrants, refugees….some are traveling for sanctuary, others…going home to surprise their loved ones…some will stop in Knoxville, others will travel through.
They can’t see us…but we see them…. the bus is coming into Knoxville around 4 am…Its raining – or maybe it’s snowing… but that’s okay, no worries, there will be shelter when we get to Knoxville. The riders are diverse, some old, some pregnant, some blind. The elderly woman looks at her shaking hands – she needs water to take her medicine – she was so thirsty; she didn’t mean to drink it all…she is so glad there will be water in Knoxville. Across the aisle, a young man looks at his phone, he needs to call his mom but shrugs with no worries – he can plug in at the bus depot. The immigrants and the refugees riding the bus look with amazement out the window – what a beautiful and welcoming place this America seems to be.
You see, Its Christmas Eve, and the reporters are out and about, looking to tell the stories of travelers heading home…they head to the Greyhound stop where passengers are waiting for the next bus or to be picked up. as the reporter begins to write their holiday story…you awaken…
You rush to look at the headline on your paper and your phone…What does it say? Is it a tale of tragedy at a bus stop long denied by the city in which it sits…or triumph as passengers debark into a safe, clean, welcoming space in the 9th most desired sanctuary city in America…a city which took the high road to care for all within its boundaries creating a model the rest of the country now seeks to emulate.
SEE you by your action or inaction from this moment forward, have written the headlines for our city of Knoxville for not only Christmas, but everyday forward…. what will you do? It’s not a business decision, nor is it a decision you can try to wipe your hands of like Pilot did…it’s a moral and ethical responsibility that you will be responsible for long after you leave those seats that we put you in.
On the first Tuesday night of December, this was the Christmas story told to city council about two possible outcomes they would create by their ongoing stance that the lack of safe and secure drop off space for Greyhound passengers entering the city’s boundaries was Greyhounds responsibility and not theirs.
The tale told of two possible outcomes: one, a success story as passengers would debark into a secure space as the city chose to take moral and ethical responsibility from a humane stance. The other outcome, which prophetically came true two days later, as the city continues to drag its feet as it has for the seven months since the unsheltered stops began. Within 48 hours of the tale, the remains of a young man who disappeared while awaiting a bus to Kingsport was found in an empty building.
The city released a memo prior to allowing the public to speak at the forum where the story was told that they had been trying to reach the Greyhound corporate office to no avail. However, Angela Dennis, who has been investigating the story for the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that the city had made no attempts to speak to the Greyhound representative in Knoxville.
In the meantime, another bus is pulling up…