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WEST (CBS 11 NEWS) – Jeni Janek says she can’t believe two years have passed since the fertilizer plant in West exploded, changing this city of 2800 residents forever. “It’s amazing life can change on a dime.”
The blast killed 15 people, destroyed homes and some of the city’s schools, forcing students to start over in a different building out of town. Janek says, “It was an enormous situation to deal with as much as our kids were exposed to a great deal.”
Janek is a counselor specializing in crisis response for schools at the Education Services Center Region 12 in Waco. She helped coordinate bringing in 40 counselors for the first day of school after the blast.
“I think having the accessibility of someone willing to listen for kids to tell their stories, to start the beginning of their healing process was really huge.” All the while, Janek’s life was turned upside down too. Like so many students in West, her house was severely damaged.
“It was very hard to walk in the door and to see everything in upheaval and see windows and doors blown out.” During renovations, she, her husband, and two children had to live in their trailer for seven months.
Through it all Janek says, helping others, helped her. “I just felt like being there was the right thing to do. I know so many of the people personally, I just could not imagine having the chance to be there.” Her home is now re-built, and throughout the city, you can see neighborhoods once flattened, rising, one house at a time.
The new West Rest Haven nursing home is set to open next month, and a new combined high school and middle school is also going up and is set to open in the fall of 2016.
The city may have changed, but Janek says the people here haven’t. “We have such a close community and people are always there for one another. It’s phenomenal to realize that now and look back and see the strength that this community had.”
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