The Sweet Hereafter

I watched for the second time tonight, Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, a haunting but beautiful film that chronicles the aftermath of a tragic event in a small Canadian town when 14 children die in a schoolbus accident.

This movie brought back one of my strongest childhood memories, which I can’t quite place. I remember reading a book when I was about eight or nine years old about a kidnapper who hijacks a schoolbus and then holds the children hostage in a semi-trailer buried underground, forcing them to deficate in a corner and eat nothing but boxes of cereal while he negotiates the ransom. I think this book was was also made into a movie in the 1970s and possibly was based on a true story.

Out of simple curiosity I want to re-read this book and experience it from the adult perspective; and possibly also to put my childhood demons to rest.

What is the name of the book/movie that I am remembering?

I found a few things online:

[Reference] Frederick N. Woods, one of three men who kidnapped and buried a busload of school children in 1976 for a $5 million ransom, was denied parole Tuesday in his 10th bid for freedom.

Woods was arrested about two weeks after he and brothers James and Richard Schoenfeld, all scions of wealthy San Francisco Peninsula families, commandeered the bus on July 15, 1976, near Chowchilla in the San Joaquin Valley.

They transferred their hostages to two vans, drove about 100 miles north and put them in a moving van they had buried in a quarry owned by the Woods family in Livermore.

While they were trying to arrange for the ransom, bus driver Ed Ray and some of the older boys dug their way out of the truck and summoned help.

Richard Schoenfeld turned himself in six days after the kidnapping. Woods and James Schoenfeld were captured six days after that, Woods in Canada.

All three were sentenced to life in prison.

Posted by Cameron Barrett at May 26, 2003 01:27 AM