A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant shocked the 2,800-person town of West, Texas. The impact could be felt miles to the south, in Waco.
“We heard a loud thunder – but it was clear outside so we knew it wasn’t thunder,” said Dennis Gomez, a student at Baylor University. “We felt the apartment shake. We just looked at each other and knew it wasn’t good.”
Gomez was one of the hundreds who waited in line for a few hours to donate blood at Carter BloodCare in Waco the morning after the explosion.
“I have many friends who are affected by the explosion. A lot of my friends are also first-responders who are there right now,” Gomez said.
Carter BloodCare public relations director Linda Goezler said donor turnout was bigger than that following the Fort Hood shootings in 2009.
“We always say there is something about Central Texas, and the communities here,” Goezler says. “They just come out, show up and know how to be a community.”
Unconfirmed reports state a majority of the fatalities came from first-responders. Responders and residents alike from neighboring cities are channeling support and aid to West, Texas. And the community prepares for any additional help the victims and their families might need.
Pastor Bryan Pittain is the pastor at Central United Methodist Church. It’s a mile away from Waco’s Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, which received more than 100 patients.
After learning about the explosion, he went to the hospital and stayed there overnight. He turned his church’s gym into an emergency shelter for families who might have lost their house, or simply need a place to rest visiting their family members in the hospital.
“We will prioritize a list of items that are most needed. There may not even be a real need for people to spend the night here but you have to be prepared,” Pittain said.
The church has already once provided an emergency shelter after Hurricane Katrina. Pittain is confident that whatever the need of the evacuees may be, his church will be able to provide.
“We will have plenty of people who will donate to make this work.”
Individuals and small business owners are finding ways to help as well. Toby Martinez owns a roofing and remodeling business in Waco, and hopes to assist people whose houses have been demolished from the fire.
“I am just trying to figure out a way to help them any way I can,” he says.
Rebecca Schultz, owns Lil Monkey Boutique in Waco. She set up a donation center at her shop, organizing pick-ups and delivery of donated items to West, Texas.
“More than 20 people called in just this morning,” Shultz said. “And the calls keep coming.”