Houston woman's mission in memory of her mom leads to safer buses


by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News


Posted on July 2, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 2 at 6:32 PM

HOUSTON—Yen Chi Le doesn’t look like a battle-tested D.C. lobbyist. She doesn’t sound like one either.

"It’s been a very long journey. It was such a relief when it passed both houses," Le said.

She came to the hard world of politics by accident, a horrible accident.

"The whole reason that I got into this was because I did not want my mom’s death to not count for anything," Le explained.

Her fight has not come with pay—only cost.

Yen-Chi Le’s mother, Catherine Tuong So Lam, was killed in an August 8, 2008 bus crash in Sherman Texas. Sixteen others from a Houston church also died and dozens more were injured.

They were on a mission trip to Missouri when the driver lost control and the bus rolled down an enbankment.

The bus rolled off an overpass crushing its roof and pushing Yen-Chi Le down a long new road.

"I had never been to D.C. before any of this happened. And my first trip to D.C. was a month after my mom died," Le said.

If would take nearly four years and 20 trips to the capitol.

The bill passed the Senate two years ago but it died in the house.

This time, the provisions of the Motorcoach Safety Act were attached to the massive transportation spending bill which passed both the U.S. House and Senate on Friday.

Le’s persistence finally paid off.

"I needed to do whatever I could, however long it took, to make sure that this doesn’t happen to other families," she said.

The law means new buses will be safer over the next three years. They are required to have seat belts, anti-crush roofing, anti-ejection glazing on the windows and tire pressure monitoring systems.

Those features have been on safety wish lists for decades. The National Transportation Safety Board first recommended them in 1968, long before Yen-Chi Le was born.

She calls her experience the best accomplishment of her life, either personal or professional, and a lesson to all hoping to make change.

"Keep telling your story as painful as it is," Le said. "I think now that it has been four years I can almost tell it without crying."

She hopes her tears will save others from crying.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law Tuesday or Wednesday.