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Jim Hunt Bus Story

Following is retiring history professor Jim Hunt's account of his most memorable experience as a Whitworth faculty member – a harrowing bus ride with 25 Whitworth students in Central America.

My most memorable experience as a Whitworth faculty member was a 4:30 a.m. bus ride in spring 1993 with 25 students from Managua, Nicaragua, to San Miguel, El Salvador. It was just a year after the Peace Accords had been signed ending the Civil War in El Salvador. 

The Tica bus was in poor repair and had electrical problems on the way out of town. We stopped several times, which made our arrival at the El Salvador frontier quite late. The scene near the border was like one out of Mad Max, with concertina barbed wire and machine gun nests surrounding the well lit but isolated gas station to prevent armed attacks.

The driver was having trouble with the bus lights, but he pressed on. The toilets in the back of the bus were beginning to overflow and slippery floors and stench filled the bus, whose air conditioning had ceased to function hours earlier. Fearing to stop, the bus driver drove at a reduced speed without lights. He worried about an attack of robbers or worse. A German tourist was running up and down the aisle of the bus yelling, "We're going to be killed! We're going to be killed!" She was left off at some isolated Salvadoran village, much to everyone's relief. Two resourceful Whitworth students put their headlamps on and peered out the bus door for the rest of the ride to San Miguel so the driver could see the road.

After a hot, smelly, tense and memorable "bus ride from hell," we arrived safely in San Miguel and were greeted and housed by Whitworth alum Leslie Vogel, '79, who opened her home to us for a night's rest in hammocks – after we swept the scorpions from the corners of the guest rooms. Throughout this adventure, the students maintained a good sense of humor and cared for one another, perhaps knowing that this had been not a trial but an extraordinary adventure. I loved them for it.

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