The vocalists performed Monday morning at a Christmas luncheon at Mountain View Inn hosted by owners Dale and Richie Hughes.
Phil Nitz, of Tampa, Fla., is the only Voice left from the group that sang its way to a third-place finish on national TV in 2009.
“Last year I was in Los Angeles. I was real nervous,” he said after Monday’s performance. This year he was in Cleveland, and he was still real nervous after the close call the evening before.
Danny Murray, the group’s always effervescent director, departed from his normal banter as he flashed back to the night before. “Life is so fleeting — truly a vapor, just as the Scripture says it is. We’ll hear of someone again with a terminal disease and the next thing you know in a few days they’ll be gone, or maybe an accident.
“We’re still a little numb this morning. Whatever you’re facing, life is about how we deal with the things that happen to us, and I’m so glad this bunch has learned God is our source and our strength.”
Murray recalled thinking the bus had exploded Sunday evening shortly after 10 o’clock. It was not an explosion, but the impact from a 70-pound electric motor dropped from an overpass that crashed through the windshield in front of bus driver Shelton Lewis. He suffered minor cuts as the safety glass imploded and fragmented into luminous green shrapnel halfway through the 40-foot bus. He was treated and released at about 2 a.m. There were no other injuries. Two students sitting in the front were hit by parts of the windshield and the motor landed on Nitz’s feet.
He did not get to keep the motor that fell almost into his lap.
“The police took it to dust for fingerprints,” he said.
Murray said, “The motor looked like a squirrel cage motor, from a clothes dryer or something. It hit the top rim of the windshield. Glass was scattered throughout the bus. Some of the students 25-feet back had glass inside their shoes,” Murray said.
Murray told of leaving Chambersburg, Pa., after four performances Sunday at about 12:30 p.m. in heavy traffic.
“It was bumper-to-bumper all the way down the road,” he said. “It was just one of those tough times. We thought if we could get on the road, eating chicken on the bus, then we could possibly be back to Cleveland by 10 o’clock.”
The traffic was terrible, but the bus continued its southward journey, stopping only once for fuel. The group was on schedule to arrive at the Mountain View Inn at 10:30 Sunday evening, set up the equipment, do sound checks and be ready to perform Monday morning for the hotel owner and his invited guests.
But the incident on I-75 disrupted their schedule.
Richie Hughes said in his welcoming remarks that a king was born 2,000 years ago. His name was Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”
“He lives and reigns today in heaven, a place where those of us who have accepted his free gift of grace will join him.”
He offered a prayer that 2011 is a year of “ordinary and extraordinary blessings such as an unexpected phone call from an old friend, more time with the ones you love and lastly: peace, protection, promotion, prosperity, productivity, joy, happiness, great health, long life for you and those you love.”
He thanked everyone for their business, their contributions to the community, “but most of all, thank you for your friendship. They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but an entire lifetime to forget them. You are that kind of friend to our family.”