Part 2: Hurricane Katrina & the Emergence of a High School Hero

Last Bus Out 

Last Bus Out, by Beck McDowell

On Tuesday, May 17th, 2011, teacher Tiffany Wheeler and her students were fortunate enough to Skype with Beck McDowell the author of Last Bus Out:  The True Story of Courtney Miles’ Rescue of over 300 People in Hurricane Katrina’s Aftermath.  It was a momentous opportunity for the students to finally meet “face to face” to discuss with Ms. McDowell’s book with her.  Skyping with the author was truly a new experience for the students once they had completed the story.  This was a special culminating event for them!

The small group of students each prepared five questions throughout the course of reading Last Bus Out about Courtney Miles’ true life adventure.  They then asked Beck McDowell these questions throughout the 40 minute Skype session.  The students described their enjoyment from reading about the different relationships in the story.  Ms. McDowell added that the relationships escalated the suspense of the story. An important question asked by the students was if she had interviewed some of the main characters in the book.  In particular they wondered if she had interviewed Courtney’s mother and grandmother. Ms. McDowell stated she did several interviews with people who had been on the bus, but she was unable to meet with Courtney’s grandmother, Geraldine, or his mother.  The students also wanted to know if there were any fictional characters in her story.  Ms. McDowell debated over including any fictional characters such as changing the name of Courtney’s girlfriend, Jamie Carter, but decided in the end to use actual names.  She wanted the story to stay as truthful as possible.  What was amazing to hear from Ms. McDowell during her discussion of Last Bus Out was as Courtney loaded the people onto the bus he had no idea where he was going.  He just knew he had to get them to safety.

What does the future hold for Beck McDowell and Last Bus Out?  The students were most curious to know if Last Bus Out would be made into a movie. Now that is a wonderful idea!  Ms. McDowell stated she has started work on a script in case the opportunity should arise.

Finally here are two student reviews of Last Bus Out by Beck McDowell:

Seneca Middle School 8th grader, Ashley: “This book was amazing! I would recommend this book to people because you can learn about the world from it.  That’s what I think about Last Bus Out.”

Seneca Middle School 8th grader, Joe: “The book had great detail about the disaster in New Orleans.  The life of Courtney Miles was amazing with everyone around him dying, dropping out of school, or doing drugs.  His mother who was good and bad to Courtney was in jail most of the time.  The story is great for history people and anyone who wants to read.”

Thank you Beck McDowell for sharing your personal story with Mrs. Wheeler’s group of students!  A special thank you to Mrs. Wheeler for always striving to be the best teacher she can be for her students!


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