Many have called D'Anthony Gildon a hero for what he did only moments before the fire, which happened Thursday afternoon.
"I just immediately knew something was wrong," Gildon said. "I've never been in a situation like that, and I had so many kids that were counting on me."
His bus, with 30 elementary school students on board, suddenly became a huge ball of fire.
"For five, 10 seconds, I really panicked because I'd never been in a situation like that. I radioed the base told them that I see smoke," he said.
Thick black smoke engulfed the front end of the bus, blocking the main exit, and quickly seeped inside.
"They were frantic," Gildon said, remembering the screaming boys and girls. "When I told them we got to evacuate because of the fire, everybody kind of ran towards the middle."
That's when Gildon yelled to a sixth grader to open the emergency back door on the bus to allow the trapped students to escape.
"Walking from the front to the back, I was looking at each seat, under each seat, grabbing backpacks," he said.
Heart-pounding cellphone video of the blaze circulated quickly, sending several parents running to the scene in the South Kansas City neighborhood.
Gildon, who has been working on the job for three years, is now being hailed a "hero." Coincidentally, he took a driver safety course just two days before the bus fire.
"Man, I'm just glad I got everyone out," he said. "I'm a normal guy."