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WEST, Texas (KRLD) – Today marks four years to the day since the Town of West was shattered by a fertilizer plant explosion, and people there find the memories are still fresh. In all, 15 people lost their lives and more than 200 others were injured after the explosion at the West Fertilizer Company.
Last year, investigators found the fire that caused the explosion was deliberately set.
Many of the homes obliterated in the blast have now been rebuilt. Streets are repaved, and the new high school is open.
Michelle Wolf is the business manager for West’s popular Czech Stop bakery. She says watching the town rise again has been wonderful and healing. “It feels amazing, seeing the new high school and the new subdivision with all those houses rebuilt,” she says. “It’s beyond words.”
Wolf and her husband lost their own home in the blast. Think back she says, “I just remember chaos, people hurt. It was a nightmare.”
But the Czech Stop stepped in, welcoming anyone who needed a refuge. All day and night after the explosion, the bakery’s president and CEO Barbara Schlisser kept the doors open, and kept the coffee and kolaches hot.
“It made me feel very proud, to be part of a company that would keep their doors open in a crisis,” says Wolf. “We never close anyway, but just to stay open for anyone who needed anything just made me proud to live in West.”
A study by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board shows that since the explosion only a few, minor changes have been made in the storage of fertilizer.
For some people in West today, memories of the deadly explosion have scabbed over. But for others who lost loved ones in the blast, the pain and loss are still fresh. “It’s more powerful for them, I imagine,” says Wolf. “You can rebuild a house. But you can’t get back your husband, brother sister, uncle.”
There will be a short remembrance service in West tonight to commemorate the explosion. There will be prayer, music, and a moment of silence at ceremony being held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church of the Assumption. The service begins at 7:30 p.m.