Chowchilla kidnapping victim sharing story of survival, forgiveness

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's been nearly 46 years since the 1976 Chowchilla kidnapping.

Three armed men took 26 children and their school bus driver and buried them alive in a box truck in a Livermore quarry.

The men planned to demand ransom for their return, but the children and their driver escaped several hours later.

"This year is going to be 46 years and so for 36 years, I just suffered," said survivor Larry Park.

RELATED: FROM THE ARCHIVE: Special Report on Chowchilla bus kidnapping in July 1976

Park was just seven years old at the time of the kidnapping. He admits to still being traumatized by the incident and says he battled addiction for most of his life.

Eleven years sober now, Park is sharing his story of survival.

"I put down a 20 year drug addiction, I have published a book about the kidnapping and now I go around and give my testimony," he said.

Park is scheduled to speak at New Life Church in Bootjack Thursday, where he will detail the emotional damage he suffered as a result of the kidnapping and what it took to overcome the trauma.

The 52-year-old will also sign copies of "The Chowchilla Kidnapping: Why Me?" -- the book he published in 2016.

"My purpose behind the book was to share my anger and when I wrote my last edition to the epilogue, I wasn't angry anymore," he said.

Park says he blamed the kidnappers for everything that went wrong in his life until about 10 years ago when he met with all three and forgave them.

"Not only have I offered them forgiveness but I've asked them for forgiveness," he said. "I needed their forgiveness because I hated them for 36 years and no one deserves that kind of hatred."

Park now lives in Fresno, where he works as a pastor and Christian counselor. He hopes sharing his own experiences will help others heal as well.

"It is possible to forgive, it is possible to find peace and it is possible to find the hope beyond the pain," he said.

The kidnappers served decades in prison. One is still there and the other two have been released.

If you're interested in hearing Larry's testimony, it's Thursday at New Life Church in Bootjack. It's a free event and begins at 6 pm.
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