Courage and Grace in West,
Last week, the small town of West, Texas suffered a terrible tragedy
when an explosion at a fertilizer storage facility ripped through the
community. Approximately 200 people were wounded, and at
least 14 lost their lives. Among these are many of the volunteer
first responders who bravely sacrificed their own lives in order to
protect the lives of others. I traveled to West last Friday to meet
with local officials and make sure the community was not wanting of
anything in the ongoing relief effort. The devastation was
heart-wrenching and the images of destruction will be with me forever.
Yet I will also carry with me the uplifting scenes of grace and
humanity that I witnessed in West.
mistake: the people of West are resilient. The town traces its roots to
the 1840s, as settlers migrated from the east across the young
Republic of Texas. Blessed with fertile soil and fresh spring water,
the community grew. Like many Texas towns, West has thrived
through the years because of a citizenry that emphasizes both
self-sufficiency and the importance of community. I can report that these
traits are alive and well, and they have been on full display to the
world in the wake of last week�s tragedy.
Upon feeling the explosion and seeing
the mushroom cloud billowing into the sky, people�s immediate
concerns were not for themselves, but for others. We saw this both in
the actions of first responders and ordinary citizens, who
instinctively ran towards the danger, not away. Residents could be seen
loading their cars with victims and making trip after trip to the
hospital. At the local nursing home, located just a couple of blocks
from the site of the explosion, the quick-thinking and heroic disregard
for personal safety demonstrated by the staff saved the lives of scores
of elderly residents.
In the aftermath, businesses stayed open around the
clock and neighbors threw open their doors to help support victims.
Restaurants and cafes refused to charge for meals, and people from
all over descended on West with food, supplies, and a simple
question: �How can I help?�
In the face of devastation, the people of West and
countless other Texans from the surrounding area have come together in a
truly awe-inspiring outpouring of goodwill and community strength.
We are commanded to love our neighbors, and the people of West are
showing us how.
I know I join all Texans in mourning the
tragic loss of life in West. We pray for comfort to come to the
grieving and for healing to come to the wounded. For those wishing
to contribute to the relief effort, I encourage you to visit
my website for information on ways
I have no doubt
that West will recover from this tragedy. The abundance of love,
faith, and selflessness that exists in this town would sustain it
through any disaster. The best of the Texas spirit is embodied by the
people of West. As one resident put it to me, �Being a Texan
doesn�t describe where you�re from, it describes who your family
Let us strive to
embody these words. Let us not forget West in her time of need.
And when we find ourselves in our time of need, may we be blessed
with the same courage and resolve that this small town has shown the