Turning the page on tragedy

Mother of boy killed in Lakeview bus crash has found peace in the written word

By Per Peterson

Kandy Noles Stevens has been a storyteller as long as she can remember, but her penchant for telling stories never equated to writing.

However, years after the Lakeview school bus crash outside of Cottonwood in 2008, Stevens — who had three kids on that bus and lost one of them — was asked to put her thoughts about grieving and helping others down on paper. The result was a book titled, “The Redbird Sings the Song of Hope — and Other Stories of Love Through Loss.”

“I have a story about everything,” said Stevens, who spoke to Dana Miller’s creative writing class at Tracy Area High School last Wednesday. “That’s how I grew up. There’s no other book out there that I have been able to find that tells you what hurts people. There are all kinds of books about grief and what it was like for that person, but nobody speaks up and says, ’Stop telling people you know what they’re going through because your cat died. You don’t know what they’re going through. I don’t even know what my own children are going through. We’re grieving the same person, but not the same loss.”

Stevens will forever be linked to one of the most tragic and horrifying days in southwest Minnesota history: The February 19, 2008, Lakeview bus crash that took the lives of four kids — Stevens’ 12-year-old son, Reed, Javens brothers Hunter (9) and Jesse (13), and 9-year-old Emilee Olson. Seventeen people were injured, including another of Stevens’ sons, Sawyer, who suffered a broken leg and wasn’t able to walk until three years after the crash.

Stevens has moved on the best she can and has since found solace in her writing, which has gone from Caringbridge posts for Sawyer, all the way to author status. She has somehow found a way to channel her grief into something others can use to heal.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.