A survivor of the 1976 Chowchilla school bus hijacking spoke out Tuesday.
Larry Park was taken at gunpoint and buried in an underground bunker along with 26 others people. On Tuesday parole officers once again denied the release of Fredrick Woods the last of his three captors who remains behind bars.
Park was kidnapped, buried and left traumatized. He held on to his anger most his life. But has since found peace and would like to see the day Woods is set free.
Park said more than four decades later the memories are still vivid.
“When we stopped masked men with guns jumped out. They got on the bus and took us,” he said.
He was only six when Woods along with brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld kidnapped him along with a bus load of 25 other children and their driver near Chowchilla.
The men buried the hostages alive in an underground bunker, hoping for a $5-million ransom.
Park said he still remembers every detail of the more than 24-hours of terror. He said as the group was held captive the shelter was slowly caving in.
“The sides of the moving van were buckling in. The top of the moving van was buckling in,” he said.
Park said an older student dug for hours to freedom, and saved everyone’s lives.
“Dirt just showered into the hole, and after all the dirt had come into the hole, there was sunlight that came in the hole and it was magnificent,” Park said.
But after the rescue the trauma was too much for his family. He said it crumbled and he spun into a life of pain and addiction, before finding his faith and eventually a path.
“I let go of this bitterness and this hatred that I had toward the kidnappers, and I realized that all of the bitterness and all of the hatred that I could hold for them wasn’t punishing them — It was killing me,” he said.
Since the revelation Park met all his captors in prison. The Schoenfeld’s were released several years back. And Park, the man who said spent his life a victim, is now also free.
“That’s not me anymore. I want you to know I am victorious over this crime. There are victims, there are survivors and there are those who are victorious,” he said.
Woods was denied parole because of continued behavior issues in prison. Park said he wants to advocate for his release, but only if he straightens out.