Re­cov­ery con­tin­ues in West 5 years af­ter fer­til­izer plant blew up, killing 15 peo­ple

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Shelly Con­lon Waco Tri­bune-Her­ald

Head foot­ball coach David Woodard, like oth­ers in West, lost his home and his place of em­ploy­ment on a Wed­nes­day evening five years ago, when an ex­plo­sion at the West Fer­til­izer Co. plant rocked the town, killed 15 and in­jured hun­dreds.

Woodard chose to re­build and rely on the re­silience he saw around him as res­i­dents im­me­di­ately went into ac­tion, both be­fore and af­ter the blast, which came at 7:51 p.m. April 17, 2013. There was never a ques­tion of whether he and his fam­ily would choose to stay, Woodard said.

The town saw some leave af­ter the blast to start their lives over and has seen some re­turn. Woodard watched as en­roll­ment in the West school district dropped for four years af­ter the blast, only to see it turn around as the district’s re­cov­ery reached a new high point with the open­ing of a new joint mid­dle school and high school build­ing at the start of last school year.

He never had any doubt West would thrive again, Woodard said. Five years later, the signs of a strong, un­bro­ken com­mu­nity are easy to find. Be­yond the new build­ings and houses in town, smaller threads of com­pas­sion are vis­i­ble — the same threads that held the town to­gether af­ter the tragedy, he and other West school em­ploy­ees said.

In ad­di­tion to the 15 peo­ple killed, mostly first re­spon­ders in the line of duty, and the hun­dreds of peo­ple in­jured, three of West’s schools and more than 350 homes were dam­aged or de­stroyed in the town with a pop­u­la­tion about 2,800.

A com­mem­o­ra­tive ser­vice mark­ing the fifth an­niver­sary of the ex­plo­sion was sched­uled for 7 p.m. Wed­nes­day at West Mid­dle School/High School.

‘What can we do?’

Woodard was driv­ing through Mar­lin, re­turn­ing from a track meet with about 20 stu­dents, when he heard the West Fer­til­izer Co. plant was on fire.

The team stopped for a quick

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.