"I want to change their minds – not kill them for weaknesses we all possess."
Dozens left homeless
Dozens left homeless
I must admit had me or mine died or suffered grievous injury from an apparently careless storage of a high explosive I'm not so sure I could adopt Gandhi's attitude. I'd want blood for blood - or just completely let it go to preserve my sanity. As it is, I'll just try to remain a mere observer.
In order for a society to be feasible and sustainable it must be built on the bedrock of trust. And the higher the trust the higher the civilization. Everyone knows this and each society has a different answer. In America we have a very high degree of trust - I trust you to be greedy and you trust me to be likewise. We have very great faith in that, but time has come to grow up.
Are our safety measures all they could be? Do we pollute as little as possible? Are we guided first by the sanctity of human life? If you judge us by our fruits, the answer is no. And if the answer is no then events such as these cannot be called accidents. They are simply preventable events that we allow to happen. Why would we do that?
Anyone who drives up and down I-35 between Dallas and Austin will notice the Czech flavored town of West about 20 minutes north of Waco. It jumps out at you and you feel there's some sort of scene going on there you should "Czech" out. I never had stopped there before so in that sense I relished this trip down south of Dallas. I will come again in a year's time to see what healing has come.
I-35 on the left
The lines were long but patient in each store.
Too small even for a last picture show
There's no substitute for actual boots on the ground of a catastrophic event. The camera always diminishes it, cropping out the context and feel relayed to us only by the stale and rehearsed voices of reporters. When you're finally there, it all hits you in the gut, giving you pause. Expect your expectations to be wrong.
In the south part of town farthest from the blast, support efforts were in full swing. There was a massive DPS presence along with a smattering of government agencies ranging from the ATF to the Flower Mound (swank Dallas suburb) fire department. Relief organizations rolled in from across the country seemingly very organized and helpful in highly practical ways. One got the sense they were old hats at this.
Mobile charging station. Genius!
Billy Graham response team? Who knew?
Animals are people too!
I made my way up north on Reagan street until I came across the first signs of the blast. The intersections at the perimeter of the blast were controlled by DPS troopers. I asked a cameraman from a TV station how close photographers could get ("Who you with?" "I'm a, uh, video blogger." Need to change that to freelancer or something). He told me you can't get into the blast zone so I took some pics from the edge.
No sneaking in the next street over, either!
I decided to drive along the perimeter and take some long distance shots to see what I could see.
The high school was a major staging ground for support personnel
Apartments exposed directly to the blast in the back. In the foreground damage to the West Intermediate School
Part of the former fertilizer plant
Even along the perimeter the damage was not minor. Any home marked with an X is considered no longer to be safe. I saw many people packing, refugees in the land of plenty.
The dreaded X
I decided I had to get closer. I backtracked up I-35 to a northern exit to see what sort of chances I might have that way. Sure enough, as I looked across the highway I saw cars stopping at a DPS checkpoint. I had an innocent speech all prepared as I watched a car pull away from the two officers. But once they walked away from that car towards their own they paid me no mind at all, like I was invisible. So I just scooted right in, thank you. And there I saw the real damage.
Map shows the nursing home and apartments in left square, plant in the right. My survey was in that left square and the blocks above.
After the explosion (Getty image)
First house I saw. Like most of them, it appeared as if it had blown up from the inside.
Everyone was packing up their belongings and headed for God knows where. I asked a disaster volunteer where they might be going and she replied she had no idea. Not everyone has a Superdome handy, I suppose. The mood, however, was not dour or even somber. There was certainly an air of concern but ready smiles were easily found in the sharing of a common tragedy.
"Closed for clean up. Please respect and bare [sic] with us through this troubling time. We will be open by phone "only" in another location Monday...Thanks for all the prayers, support and patience...West stands strong!"
As I got closer to the blast site the damage became more pronounced. I can't imagine the shock and panic at the time of the explosion. Takes a certain kind of strength and courage to be a first responder who has to pull bloodied bodies from the rubble.
Inner courtyard of the nursing home
The part of the nursing home facing the blast
Apartments were simply shattered to pieces
I wasn't ballsy enough to go on the other side of the apartments to get closer to the blast. I didn't see anyone else walking that way plus a DPS trooper was keeping an eye on that road. I made do with some long range shots instead.
A volunteer I talked to told me she heard story after story of miraculous saves. Either someone had just left the house or the room that got destroyed, or they were pulled from the debris with just a few scratches. But perhaps the biggest saving grace was that school was not in session at the nearby Intermediate School.
On my way out I decided I wanted to see more of this city I had passed over so many times before. I certainly sensed what a tight knit community it was just from watching the residents interact with one another. I felt very much the outsider. But no one I ran into was stand offish or unfriendly, instead making me feel welcome even as an obvious interloper.
Dear West, I'll be back!
Click here to see the entire photo set.
Although not lamenting nor "disgusted" by the absence of regulation or even the absence of following existing regulations by a deadly fertilizer plant, Governor Goodhair is downright upset by a cartoon from the Sacramento Bee cheering his oft heard mantra of low taxes and low regulations. In fact, Governor Goodhair is demanding an apology! No word yet if the governor is going to offer one to the families of the dead and wounded.
Lawsuits from Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast now Total 6
The deadly Central Texas fertilizer facility explosion has now spawned six lawsuits, including one from the family of a volunteer firefighter killed in the blast.
Fourteen people died and more than 200 were injured by the April 17 blast in the small Central Texas town of West. Dozens of buildings were destroyed or severely damaged
West volunteer firefighter Morris Bridge was among the 14 killed. His family is among the latest to sue Adair Grain Inc., operator of West Fertilizer Co., the Waco Tribune-Herald reports. Another is Joshua Zarecor, a man blinded while visiting a friend at a nearby nursing home when the plant exploded.
Also suing are two insurance companies, a nursing home resident and a West couple. The blast caused an estimated $100 million in damage.
The scandal overlooked in West, Texas
Following the tragic Boston bombings and the subsequent manhunt, citizens across the country made an effort to support the victims and the city affected, both financially and emotionally.
Those affected by the fertilizer plant explosion that same week in West, Texas, have seen a decent amount of support and coverage but probably not enough.
However, though the national media focuses on the motives behind the Boston bombings, the origins of the completely avoidable fertilizer explosion have seldom been discussed.
While we may never understand how or why someone would want to murder innocent people peacefully watching the Boston Marathon, it’s vital that those at fault for the lack of oversight and accountability in the fertilizer plant incident be investigated and punished. If necessary, better regulation and bigger penalties should be put in place in order to protect workers from being killed because of an incompetent boss.
Mike Elk, in an article published in the Washington Post, noted that the fertilizer plant did not have sprinklers, shut-off valves, fire alarms or blast walls, any one of which might have prevented the deaths of 14 people and about 200 injuries.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 4,693 work-related fatalities occurred in 2011, which was actually down slightly from previous years. Though tragic and unacceptable, this number gains far less attention than it should, particularly from Congress and the White House.
While the government has spent trillions trying to prevent more terrorist attacks, little is done for work-related deaths, which are far more common and preventable.
Consultant: Three schools in West cannot be repaired
WEST, Texas — The West Independent School District board of trustees learned Monday that three of its four schools will have to be demolished in the wake of the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion.
The district's high school, intermediate school, and most of its middle school were damaged by the blast.
A construction company that has reviewed the three schools told trustees that only the gymnasium at the middle school can be repaired; the other structures must be rebuilt.
The estimated price of the repairs was not available.