It's been quite the week for brothers Connor and Seamus Collins after they helped prevent their school bus from crashing on Monday, March 14.
While en route to Mt. Ararat Middle and High School last Monday, Connor, 16, heard a thud as bus driver Arthur McDougall, 77, slumped over the steering wheel and fell to the floor. As the bus veered off the road and into a ditch, the teenager ran to the front to grab the wheel, slam the breaks, and instruct his little brother to call 9-1-1.
Led by the Collins boys, the 14 students on board helped get Arthur medical attention, though he did not ultimately survive the heart attack he suffered. But Connor's quick thinking prevented any more tragedy, and the story caught the attention of the owner of their favorite football team.
"You guys really called an audible on that bus," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Tuesday, surprising Conor and Seamus on a Zoom call.
"You're very brave and special and we respect and admire what you both did, how courageous you both were. So, we were wondering if we could invite you to the opening game this year and get you tickets?"
Not surprisingly, the boys were happy to accept the offer and attend their first-ever Patriots game at Gillette Stadium.
The boys had grown a bit tired from doing media all week in the aftermath of their heroic actions, but one last interview proved worth it.
"It's hectic," said 12-year-old Seamus, relaying that they didn't intend for all the publicity when they stepped up to help in a time of need.
"I'm not used to it," Connor added.
Connor also isn't completely used to driving a car -- never mind a bus – considering he only has a learning permit. But when Arthur became their bus driver a month into the school year, Connor offered assistance then, too.
Arthur stepped up for his community amid a bus driver shortage in the school district, and the 11th grader, in turn, showed him the usual bus route around Topsham, Maine.
The boys described their bus driver as nice and said he always had a smile on his face. After McDougall collapsed at the wheel and Connor managed to stop the bus, the brothers worked together to calm their fellow classmates down and assist Arthur.
"It was one of those things where you look back on everything that's important, and in a split second, you realize what you need to do," Seamus said. "I tried to calm people down on the bus, flag cars down, call 9-1-1. I wanted to get to the back of the bus and open the back door, but everyone was crowding."
When asked how they were able to remain calm and focused in a stressful time, the younger brother had a simple answer.
"My dad's and my mom's lessons," Seamus said. "They taught us to be leaders."
The Collins brothers didn't make it to school that day. Instead, they waited for news on Arthur and tried to rest.
There was hope with an update that Arthur had a pulse. Topsham Police helped administer CPR and used an automated external defibrillator on Arthur, who was initially transported to Mid Coast Hospital and then Life Flighted to Maine Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
His widow, Diane McDougall, expressed how grateful she was for the effort of the students and first responders to save her husband's life when the Collins brothers paid her a visit.
Arthur loved playing golf and was an avid Patriots fan himself. He didn't financially need to be driving the bus that day, but he took pride in it.
"By her emotion, it meant a lot to her -- seeing her happy during a sad time made me happy," Seamus said of their visit with Diane.
"What his wife told us was that every day he got home he would always say, 'I got the kids to and from safely, so I'm happy.' "
Connor and Seamus made sure Arthur fulfilled that one last time, and now get to honor his memory on the first day of the NFL season.