West community looks back and moves forward one year later

Posted at 11:09 PM, Apr 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-18 00:09:00-04

The West community comes together to remember and move forward on the one year anniversary of the explosion.

Most of the town was at the fairgrounds in West for "4/17 West: Forever Forward." It's a city planned event to mark the one year anniversary of the explosion that killed 15 people, injured dozens others and devastated the town. Organizers say they wanted to have the community together to mark the actual time of the explosion at 7:51. The ceremony was much more though.

"It's not a memorial because it is partly that but it's a lot about moving forward," chairman of the planning committee Benet Ayers said. "We left out anniversary because every time someone said anniversary they wanted to follow it with party or celebration and it's not that by any means. So we gave it it's own name because we couldn't find a good word for it."

People crowded into a pavilion until Baylor singers started around 7:15. They set the mood and gave way for several speakers. One was pastor John Crowder. He said the town lost so much but there are some things that were good to lose. Like the loss of doubt that there are heroes in the town and the loss of doubt the West can overcome.

Crowder led the town in a moment of silence at 7:51. It was a mournful moment, but one that led to the second part of the service which focused more on moving forward. Residents watched a documentary on the entire year since the explosion that officials say was "tastefully edited." It did not show the explosion or the fire but focused more on the aftermath and how the town has rebuilt.

Mayor Tommy Muska later took the stage as well to give a city update. He cracked some jokes to remember the friends he lost, saying what they were doing in heaven. That drew a laugh from the crowd and his comments of moving forward then drew a standing ovation.

Baylor President Ken Starr then spoke and then it was time for a final prayer. Before everyone left, though, officials pointed everyone to a spotlight shining from the town that beamed into the stars. Father Ed Karasek told everyone to remember those who were lost and also look to the future.