West city leaders remember the fallen, celebrate the progress

Posted at 7:43 PM, Apr 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-17 23:59:00-04

One year ago Thursday, a deadly blast rocked the town of West. Thousands took the time to remember those who lost their lives and celebrate the healing that's taking place.

Flags all around the city were at half mast to honor of death of 15 people. Especially the 12 first responders who fought the flames and tried to evacuate the area before the fertilizer plant exploded.

Mayor Tommy Muska read off a list of the 15 names of those who died, and said we should never forget why we are here. City leaders all agreed that the healing process is not done in West, and the one year anniversary of the blast will not provide complete closure.

City leaders say the anniversary will help get past a difficult point that has been the rebuilding and healing process over the past year.

"What it does mean is that we are getting past the firsts that everyone has gone through. The first Christmas, first birthdays, first anniversaries. Things like that, that hurdled by families and loved ones. That's the only thing as far as a relief point that we're going to get over." West Volunteer Fire Chaplain Robbie Payne said.

Mayor Muska acknowledged with tears in his eyes that no group of people have had a more challenging year than the many city leaders who lost their homes, but continued to provide help and serve the community during this process. People like Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek and Justice of the Peace David Pareya.

Thursday was a day of remembrance, but also a day of celebration. City leaders say although West is making strides, they still have a long way to go.

Mayor Muska says that 70 homes destroyed in the blast have been rebuilt and more are still in the process. Just this week, the city received an additional $4.8 million from the state for street repairs and water pipes. West ISD Superintendent Marty Crawford says he hopes to break ground on a new campus this summer as well.

City leaders say during this recovery process the unity of the town and what they have done has helped the future of West.

"I see us as a stronger community. We have a lot of economic opportunities here. We are not the little community we used to be a year ago," Muska said.

While progress has been made physically, the emotional progress continues. The mayor says it may never end.

"I have a concern long term about post traumatic stress. I think it is something you cannot see. You have the physical injuries. You have a broken arm that heals. You see that arm it heals. Post traumatic stress and the concussion that was felt are just some of the injuries that won't be seen for a long time," Muska said.

Mayor Muska also said the possibility of a new fertilizer plant is also going to be a tough pill for many people to swallow. He compared the fertilizer plant to a knife; he said just because you cut yourself once with itdoesn'tt mean you won't use it again. Just use it more carefully.

Many residents say even though they have persevered for a year, people in the surrounding communities should never forget what happened here and never forget the thousands of people it affected.