WACO (CBS 11 NEWS) – Standing on a stage behind flag-covered caskets, President Barack Obama told the residents of West that while he and others may not live in Texas, they are neighbors, and are also grappling with the town’s loss. The President and Mrs. Obama were among thousands who packed Baylor University’s Ferrell Center Thursday, for an emotional memorial honoring the 12 first responders who died in an explosion in West last week.
Thousands of firefighters and medics attended the service, some from as far as Canada. They joined residents of West, who were able to turn their focus away from the town’s destruction for a day, to those who died in the incident.
The memorial was highlighted by video eulogies from family or friends of each of the men who died.
“If he had a job to do, he did it to his utmost best, and as a dad I am so proud of that,” said the father of Joey Pustejovsky, Jr.
The wife of Morris Bridges held the couple’s two-year-old son Jaemeson, while she talked about how much her husband loved his children.
Kevin Sanders’ brother talked about his obsession with Superman, and how his brother ended his life, as a hero.
“A hero, because up to and including his final moments he would give everything, to anyone, immediately,” he said.
Senator John Cornyn, Governor Rick Perry and the President all spoke at the service, each remarking how their words could do little to match those of the families, and little to ease their pain. President Obama offered encouragement however to West.
“You have been tested West,” the President said. “You have been tried. You have gone through fire. But you are and always will be surrounded by an abundance of love.”
The President stayed at the arena for nearly an hour after the memorial ended, speaking in private to families and close friends of the men who died.
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