NewsThe West Explosion: A Decade Later

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Memories of the past in West & how the small town moved forward

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Posted at 8:34 AM, Apr 17, 2023

WEST, Texas — In the small town of West, you can count the number of trains that make their way through and the whistles of those trains become the soundtrack.

"That train actually made the city, they've gotten a lot louder I can tell you that," said Mayor Tommy Muska.

Mayor Muska followed his father's route and became the mayor of the small town. In his insurance office with pictures of West hanging on the walls, he'll tell you he wasn't ready for April 17, 2013.

"The explosion is part of our history, we can escape what happened," said Muska.

He was near the explosion sight that Wednesday evening just a few months as mayor. When it exploded it would blow him to the ground and he would soon learn he would have to lead the town through a disaster and it would take years to rebuild what to seconds to destroy.

"They're going to be defined by how they handled the event after it happened," said Muska.

Despite well over a hundred homes being destroyed in West, a shelter was never needed. People would open their homes up and show love and support for their neighbors.

"People started coming in without clothes or shoes," said Maria Galvin manager of a local thrift shop.

Spending a few minutes with Maria you know helping others is a life calling for her. On that 2013 spring day she knew she wanted to give back. One way was allowing people to take whatever they needed in the thrift store.

"My brother was dying and he had tumors in his head. He drove all the way from Brownsville," said Galvin.

Her brother would bring a cross and let people light candles on it. Cancer in his body wasn't going to stop him for helping.

"It brought a lot of people closer together at the same time," said Galvin.

For the 15 that passed flowers would be provided for their funeral by a local florist. Charging not a dime many in the small community knew it was the right thing to do.

They were stories that caught the attention of President Obama's attention sharing his thoughts at a memorial service.

“But today I see in the people of West, in your eyes, that what makes West special isn't going to go away. And instead of changing who you are, this tragedy has simply revealed who you’ve always been.”

The memories of that day are still in the town and you can feel it at the memorial sight yards from where many of the victims took their last breaths. People in the town tear up talking about that day. They said when you lose one in a small town, it's like losing a family member.

Mayor Muska says he's proud of the community and how they've overcome. People in the small community said they never want to forget the 15 who died.