Chattanooga, Tennessee (CNN) — While the rest of the country gives thanks Thursday, six Chattanooga families are grieving the absence of a child from their table.
Keonte Wilson. Cor’Dayja Jones. Zyaira Mateen. D’Myunn Brown. Zoie Nash. And a child whose name hasn’t been released.
All six perished after their school bus crashed and flipped over, leading to intense scrutiny over the driver’s actions and safety record.
Nine-year-old Cor’Dayja Jones’ family was looking forward to celebrating not just Thanksgiving with her, but also her upcoming 10th birthday on Dec. 11.
“One of the things that I remember about Cor’Dayja was that she always smiled, and she would always give you a hug,” her cousin LaFrederick Thirkill told CNN on Thursday.
But on this day of grace, both Thirkill and the family of bus driver Johnthony Walker are also heartbroken for one another.
“I pray for his family as well as I do (for) mine and the other families that were involved in this terrible accident,” Thirkill said.
After Monday’s crash, Walker’s sister called Thirkill, the principal of a neighboring elementary school.
“She has students who attend my school as well, and so she called, very emotional and obviously grieving,” Thirkill recalled.
“She just reassured me that her brother was a good person and she said that he was terribly heartbroken by the accident. She said that he was driving and he hit a curb or something and he tried to overcorrect the bus, and caused it to flip over.”