Woman recalls missing Alton school bus that crashed, killing 21

It's been 22 years since a school bus plunged into a caliche pit killing 21 children.

Action 4 News spoke to one woman who was a 7th grader at Mission Junior High School and should have been on the ill-fated bus back on September 21st, 1989.

She was running late and caught a second bus, which drove past the accident.

"They were trying to break windows, trying to get out," Cynthia Moreno recalled.

Moreno said she still recalls the scene of the accident like it was yesterday.

"It was a hard day in school not seeing the kids in class being their first year in junior high," Moreno said. "It was horrible."

Some 22 years have passed and Moreno now has kids of her own.

She says things may not have turned out the way they did, had she woken up on time for school.

Moreno was late to the bus stop and missed her ride on the same bus hit by a Dr. Pepper delivery truck.

"That night we vowed never to drink Dr. Pepper again," she sid.

The bus then rolled over at Bryan Road and 5 Mile Line in Alton, partialy submerged in water and upside down in the caliche pit.

Moreno's best friend Margarita Buentello was one of the victims riding the bus with her boyfriend Greg.

"They were sitting next to each other and they were holding hands and then he said 'when we went down I had her and we got out through the window and we were going up," Moreno said. "I could almost see but somebody pulled her from me."

Parents rushed to check on their kids at various campuses.

"But some were just screaming and yelling," Moreno said. "I guess they didn't find their kids in class or they were all devastated."

For 21 of the students, it was too late.

"God had other plans for us," Moreno said when asked why she missed the bus that morning.

Moreno says she caught the late bus to school which had a route that drove by the crash site and saw people jumping in the water to try and help save the children.

She says she was too shaken up to attend the funerals and chose to remember her classmates as they were before that tragic day.