When Chowchilla Makes the Headlines

For us who live at the foot of Yosemite National Park, Chowchilla is one of the many small valley towns that has seen a burst of housing construction in the early 2000s, but is now facing financial difficulties.
There are few highlights about Chowchilla. Tall and luxurious palm trees line Robertson Avenue, the town’s main street. A Starbucks café opened a few years ago – best rest area before taking 99 for the coast or San Francisco.
On a less picture-like note, Chowchilla is also home to one of the largest prisons for women in California.
Chowchilla rarely makes the local or regional headlines. Yet it made the national headlines yesterday with the passing of Ed Ray, a long life town resident, at the age of ninety-one. 
Back in 1976, an unpredictable event, unthinkable for this sleepy part of Central California, made of Ed Ray a hero.
A school bus was high jacked for ransom. Twenty-six children were on board. Ed Ray was the driver. Because of his exceptional courage and determination, he managed to not only save the children from the quarry where their kidnappers had hidden them in a trailer buried under feet of dirt, but also to remember the license plate of the kidnappers’ vehicle, helping the police to arrest them. 
Each time I go to the Bay area or the coast, I drive though the country roads where the bus was high jacked and through Chowchilla, often getting a latte at Starbucks before hitting busy and dangerous 99. I never thought much of Chowchilla and Ed Ray’s heroic behavior doesn’t make of his hometown a heroic town. But yesterday’s news reminded me that heroes are rarely well-known before they act out of the ordinary. 
Read more in the following article published in the New York Times yesterday.

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