As soon as Shelly Bussey was wheeled through the arrival gate at Baltimore-Washington International Airport last night, about 40 relatives and friends showered her with confetti, dropped teddy bears on her lap and handed her flowers and balloons.
It wasn't the type of homecoming she had expected when she left inlate June for a Girl Scout-sponsored vacation in California.
The highlight of the trip was supposed to be a two-week tour of Southern California called "California Dreamin.' " It turned into a nightmare last week, when the chartered school bus in which Shelly, 17, was a passenger careened off a mountain highway in Palm Springs, Calif., killing seven passengers and injuring 53 others.
Last night, Shelly still wore bandages on her face because of cuts, an eye injury and a broken nose she suffered in the July 31 accident. She looked tired, but happy and a bit surprised as friends and family applauded her arrival.
"I feel pretty good," Shelly told the crowd as she was wheeled through. "I'm just happy to be home."
Then before she made her way slowly through all the well-wishers, David Webb, her 19-year-old boyfriend, leaned over gingerly on his own his crutches and planted a kiss on her lips. The tears that had been welling up in Shelly's eyes spilled slightly down her cheeks.
"I was scared last week," said Mr. Webb, who is recovering from injuries he sustained a few weeks ago in an auto accident. "I didn't know what was going on. I'm just so happy she's back."
Shelly told a crowd of reporters and well-wishers that she didn't remember much about the accident, except feeling scared as the bus picked up speed going down the mountain highway and some of the passengers yelling for the bus driver to use the brakes. The senior at Anne Arundel County's North County High School talked about her future, about finishing high school and enrolling in college next year. But such planning would have to wait until she could rest.
"I'm tired," said Shelly. "The first thing I want to do when I get home is probably lie down and go to sleep. I just want to be with my family. I missed them."
Shelly faces surgery next Wednesday to repair her left eye socket, which suffered a blowout fracture. But her family said that doctors were optimistic that Shelly will make a speedy recovery.
Among those who missed Shelly particularly was her aunt, Eva Clough, who has lived in the same home in Brooklyn Park the last 11 years with Shelly and her mother, Debra Todd.
"Shelly's just like my own kid," said Ms. Clough, pressing slowly through the crowd to see her niece. "She's always been a lovely person, willing to help other people, involved in the Special Olympics. She's outgoing and she's always been a pretty girl. But she also has an inner beauty. God was looking out after her."
Several members of Girl Scout Troop 720 of Central Maryland, Shelly's loyal outfit, were also on hand.
"I'm so happy to see her," said troop member Julia Correll. "When I saw the pictures of the accident on TV, I was just really shocked, thinking that somebody I knew was on the bus. But she looks good. We expected much worse."