WEST (CBS 11 NEWS) – In West, professional restoration companies and contractors are now being allowed into the hardest hit neighborhood closest to the fertilizer plant. Homeowners and residents were given access to the previously restricted area for the first time on Saturday. Still, days later, many homeowners are struggling to comprehend the devastation.

Bill Scott says he tried to prepare his wife of 60 years, Naomi, for what they would likely find.

“I told her we might expect the worst,” says Scott, “because from what I hear, it’s pretty bad. But, it was much worse than I expected.”

A Korean War veteran, Scott knows of what he speaks when he uses the words “war zone” to describe the damage to his neighborhood of the past two decades. He just never expected to see one in West.

Comprehensive Coverage of the West Fertilizer Plant Explosion

“No way. This is the biggest surprise: couldn’t have dreamed this up.”

But, the nightmare that began when the fertilizer plant exploded now has the couple re-visiting major life decisions—like where they will live.

“It (their house) is a total loss, and we haven’t decided yet. We’re thinking about renting for a while—maybe rebuild,” says Scott. “We’re both in our mid 80s, so we can’t see any sense in building a new home, yet. We may do that, but we may not.”

While still busy sifting through the rubble for pictures and mementos, many homeowners say they are in no rush to rebuild—wanting to know more about what touched off the fatal explosion before rebuilding in the shadow of a fertilizer plant.

The Scotts say they would prefer to stay in West; but, know that with so many homes damaged in the explosion, housing will be hard to find.

Next door, Tim Bettge was busy salvaging what he could from his sister’s home. Even with all of the volunteers and helping pouring into West, he worries about those who won’t have the resources to rebuild.

“You got plenty to drink, plenty to eat. But, then, if you don’t have insurance, it’s a little scary knowing that—where do you go from here?”

So the phrase ‘back-to-normal’ may have to take on new meaning. The hard reality is that by the time that much of the housing is rebuilt, many neighbors may have moved on.

“I suggested a rest home,” Scott says with a laugh. “But, my wife says, ‘I’ll visit you there—but, I won’t go’.” Then, most likely, neither will he.

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