10 Years Later: Jeff Riddle still hears ‘I got you’

Tom KingOur Town Heroes

On the afternoon of December 2, 2014, Jeffrey Riddle walked to the edge of his driveway on Glenoaks Drive. He was crying a little. In shock. Devastated. Then came a quiet voice, almost a whisper. “I got you. I got you” is what he heard. “The Lord spoke to me. I heard his voice. A peace came over me that I can’t explain. Still can’t. I was hurting so bad, but that calm voice gave me so much comfort.”

Today, approaching 10 years from the day his wife, Kimberly, died in a tragic accident, he can still hear those words. “Every time I walk to the edge of the driveway and stop there in that same place, all these years later, it comes back, the voice, again and again – ‘I got you. I got you.’ There has not been a time when it hasn’t happened. I can’t explain it.”

Jeffrey Riddle

Kimberly Riddle was a teacher’s aide riding on Sunnyview Primary School bus No. 57 on the afternoon of December 2, 2014, a Tuesday. Another school bus crossed the median on Asheville Highway near Gov. John Sevier Highway and crashed into the side of the bus she was in. Kimberly and two students, Seraya Glasper, 7, and Zykia Burns, 6, were killed and pronounced dead at the crash scene.

Six months later the investigation revealed the cause of the crash: The driver of bus 44 was texting a prostitute, lost control and slammed into the other bus. He died of natural causes several months after the crash. It took Riddle some time and soul searching, he says, but he was finally able to forgive the driver.

Riddle, reared in Mechanicsville, is this week’s Our Town Hero. A Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) deputy for 37 years, he became a single parent to their two children, daughter Kamryn, then 14, and Jeffrey Jr., then 11. She was a freshman at Central High and “Jey” was at Gresham Middle. Today, Kamryn, or “Baby Cakes” to her father, is 24 and will be graduating from East Tennessee State University in December with a degree in nursing. Son Jey, 21, is still working on playing college football in Georgia.

They were happily married for 16 years. He and their “kids” refer to her as Kim. “We use my wife’s first name as encouragement. K.I.M. Keep It Moving.”

Jeffrey was getting off work at about the same time the accident happened. “I turned on the TV and saw the news break going across the TV screen and it alarmed me when I saw Sunnyview, so I started calling my wife in hopes that she would answer the phone,” he said. “Our son was home and sensed something was going on. No idea why. I knew the principal and called her phone and she was an emotional wreck and couldn’t talk.”

That’s when Riddle decided to drive to the accident site. When he walked out of his front door a black Knox County Crown Victoria drove up and out stepped a Chaplain. “I knew it then. He told me that my wife was gone, hugged me and we started praying,” he recalls.

Jey and Kamryn Riddle

Riddle, now 60, says he’s not thought about remarrying. “I have focused my time on getting our children through this and helping them become good and productive citizens in this world,” he said. The family has always worshipped at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church where he has served as an ordained deacon for 20 years in Youth Ministry.

Within a 12-month period of 2013-2014 he lost Kimberly and his parents. “If I was not spiritually grounded, I could not have handled all of this or dealt with it as I did. Some friends thought I’d go stir crazy, but I didn’t. It was a tough pill to swallow for sure, all of it.”

His KCSO career has been varied and interesting. Six years as a detention officer in the jail; two years in jail transportation and a transfer to the Special Services Division teaching the Junior Deputy program to sixth graders in Knox County middle schools for 13 years. For the next seven years he was a part of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance & Education) program. The next assignment was as a School Resource Officer (SRO) at several schools in West Knox County. In 2013 his career came full circle back to corrections as an expungement officer, where he works today.

“Our love for Kim will always be with us. We’ve done OK with our strong family support, with the spiritual walk we’ve walked, the support from our church family,” Jeffrey said. “Kim was their No. 1 fan in sports and in anything they did. Jey uses his mother’s cellphone number today and Kamryn has a tattoo to honor her.”

Dad also did something quite special. He gave them each a turquoise, heart-shaped locket on a chain with Kim’s ashes inside. “She’s always with us. We enjoy remembering her and talking and laughing about the funny things that happened growing up.”

And the memories are many, for Riddle, Kamryn and Jey, who still live together in that same house on Glenoaks Drive where Kim lived, too, and still lives.

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name or text him at 865-659-3562.


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