WEST (CBS 11 NEWS) – In West, residents in the hardest hit areas will soon be able to at least see what is left of their homes.  Police will begin escorting homeowners into the previously restricted area beginning Saturday morning at 7:00.

It is news that many in the town rocked by a fertilizer plant explosion last week have been waiting to hear.  But, George Smith, D.O., no longer wonders about what he’ll find when he finally sees his home—he already knows.

“There are some rooms that I couldn’t even get in,” says Dr. Smith.  “All of the ceiling tile is down, insulation, every window, every door; my front door is about 20 feet inside the house.  It’s probably going to have to be demolished.”

Comprehensive Coverage of the West Fertilizer Plant Explosion

Dr. Smith is hoping to salvage pictures and personal mementos, if he can.  But, what he says he needed from the devastation was his uniform.

“They let me go in, escorted by a policeman, to get my badge, and my pants and my EMS shirt so I could have a proper uniform.”  You see, the West EMS Director had a dozen funerals to attend.

“These were all friends of mine, compadres of mine, my brothers.  And I just… it’s important that I make all of the services.”

The doctor’s eyes fill with tears and his weary voice breaks as he continues.  “In relationship to the ultimate sacrifice that my friends paid, my personal loss is miniscule.  Things can be rebuilt, lives cannot.”

So, on this day, he stands along the side of the road and raises a solemn salute to firefighter Joey Pustejovsky, as his flag draped coffin passes by… before hurrying to Hillsboro for the funeral service for Abbott volunteer firefighter Cyrus Reed.  He has now attended three funerals for the first responders killed in the explosion.  He will attend nine more.

It is unimaginable heartbreak to bury a dozen friends.  But, Smith says, the grieving is just the beginning.

“The best way we can honor them, is to continue what we’re doing. I know every one of them. They would not want us to give up, and lay down and roll over. They’d want us to continue doing what we’re already doing…saving lives.”

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