North Texas Teens Trapped in Snowbound Bus for 28 Hours

Students were on a spring break exchange trip to Hungary

By Ben Russell
|  Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013  |  Updated 10:23 PM CDT
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Teens Trapped in Snowbound Bus for 28 Hours

Students in the Metroplex may have dozens of different spring break stories, but arguably none of them are more dramatic than Meredith Johnston's.

"It was interesting," the 15-year-old said. "I was caught on a bus for 28 hours during a snowstorm."

Johnston, a sophomore at Arlington High School, was one of 10 North Texas students to take part in a Fort Worth Sister Cities trip to Hungary over spring break.

According to the organization's website, the mission of Fort Worth Sister Cities is to advance peace through lasting relationships and international understanding.

"If nothing else, those kids are the true face of citizen diplomacy," Mae Ferguson, CEO of Fort Worth Sister Cities president and CEO, said about the ordeal the local students encountered in Eastern Europe.

The students and their host families, were riding in a bus on the way back to Budapest from a day spent in Vienna, Austria, when they ran into a snowstorm that brought drifts up to 10 feet tall.

"I thought it was just a traffic jam. But we didn't move anymore for a good day or so," Johnston said.

The students were not alone. The storm, described as the worst in recent memory, stranded thousands of people in their vehicles, many of which became buried in snow.

Aside from the bathroom on the bus being out of order, the mood on board was good, Johnston said. Their only other concern was the fear of the bus running out of gasoline.

The group's good spirits are thanks in large part to the efforts of a collection of townspeople from nearby Gyor, who heard about their plight from a mysterious Facebook post.

Johnston said the name and phone number of one of the passengers on board the bus was put into a Facebook post -- by whom, she does not know. But regardless of the source, the responses came quickly.

"She got 60-something calls and 30-something text messages just saying, 'We can do anything that you need. We'll help you out," she said. "And it was just this little small town that was coming together for us and for everybody out there."

What started with food, water and blankets eventually led to the townspeople convincing the police, who were handling the emergency response on the highway, to let them take the passengers out of the bus and to a local high school for shelter, Johnston said.

Now that she is safe and back home in Texas, Johnston seems to have a good sense of humor about her experience.

"I wasn't enjoying it at the time," she said as she laughed. "I was with my friends, so it was good. But I was very anxious to get out. I got a little delusional. But now that I look back on it, it is just a crazy story. What a way to spend some of my spring break!"

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