ST. GEORGE — The Washington County School District Board of Education honored dozens of Chinese language teachers in a meeting Tuesday evening.
The teachers volunteered their time at local hospitals following a fatal tour bus crash on state Route 12 near Bryce Canyon on Sept. 20. The tour bus was carrying 30 Chinese nationals, and the crash injured 12-15 individuals and killed four.
When Washington County School District heard about the tragedy, Marybeth Fuller, the district’s dual language immersion coordinator, said the teachers responded immediately, offering the victims food, comfort and translation services.
“The minute, practically, that word came that these passengers were in need of translators as they were being air-lifted and brought to medical facilities, our teachers sprung into action,” she said.
Patrick Caroll, medical director for Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center, said the teachers made something wonderful out of a tragic situation. The accident, he said, left the victims injured in an unfamiliar land and thousands of miles from their homes.
Caroll took a moment to recognize each of the teachers who volunteered their time to the hospital, the victims and their families.
“It reinforced to us what a strong community we have and our appreciation of the impact that each of you have had on serving the local community and also the global community that we are fortunate to be a part of,” he said.
Xiaojun Wu, a fourth grade Chinese language immersion teacher at Bloomington Elementary School, told St. George News after a day of teaching he received a message in a group chat announcing that nearby medical centers were in need of a number of Chinese translators.
Wu spent many of his subsequent afternoons and free time translating for the victims, he said, because many did not speak any English. He recalled translating information regarding a surgery that one of the women on the bus needed to undergo and taking a phone call from family members of victims who were unable to respond.
“I feel so touched. People so far away from home, they really need someone, especially when you’re awaiting medical help and you’re staying in a hospital room alone by yourself,” he said. “They really need some comfort. Maybe just someone to chat with, some familiar face from your hometown. It’s not about just about language translation, it’s more about comforting.”
Wu said experiencing this tragedy with the victims has encouraged him to help more people in need and reach out to his family more often.
Board President David Stirland said the teachers exercised a great amount of sacrifice, setting a great example of “service, dedication and sacrifice” for others in the community.
The Board of Education is set to hold its next regularly scheduled, monthly meeting on Nov. 12 beginning at 4:30 p.m.
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