• September 15, 2014

West tragedy evokes painful memories for many Central Texans

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Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2013 4:30 am

We’ve been through this before.

Wednesday night’s catastrophic explosion at a West fertilizer plant brought back the feelings of shock, grief and sadness that Central Texans have known all too well over the past two decades.

By now, we’ve all taken in the sobering scenes of the small town’s ravaged buildings, mangled vehicles and wounded residents.

The feelings of sadness and loss many of us have felt over the past few days have evoked sorrowful memories for many in our area.

It should come as no surprise.

Over the past 22 years, our area of the state has endured a seemingly endless string of tragic events that cumulatively resulted in the deaths of more than 150 people.

In October 1991, area residents were stunned and saddened by the mass shooting at the Killeen’s Luby’s restaurant, which left 23 people dead.

In April 1993, a 51-day standoff at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco ended in a fire that claimed the lives of 80 people.

Four years later, in April 1997, a massive

F-5 tornado tore through the Williamson County town of Jarrell, devastating a large part of the community and killing 27 residents.

In November 2009, the Killeen area was grieving once again after a gunman opened fire at a soldier processing center at Fort Hood, killing 13 people and wounding 32 others.

And now we are dealing with the aftermath of the West explosion, where 14 people were killed and more than 200 were injured.

As has been the case so often when there is a crisis, Central Texans responded quickly and unselfishly — on several fronts.

Firefighters from a host of local fire departments — including Killeen, Harker Heights, Temple and Central Bell County Fire Rescue — mobilized to help with the rescue effort and provide support. The Killeen FD sent its hazardous materials team, a decomposition team and an ambulance, along with 16 KFD personnel. Fort Hood also sent three fire department vehicles and crews.

Harker Heights sent nine police and fire department members, and also provided its mobile regional command and communications center to help coordinate the effort.

Scott & White Hospital in Temple, along with McLane Children’s Hospital, provided medical treatment to several of the injured.

As the crisis entered its second day, local businesses, churches, schools and civic organizations jumped into action.

Metroplex Hospital launched a “Friends of West” needs drive; Texas A&M-Central Texas initiated a collection drive for clothing and personal items; two local businesses organized a food drive; and Fort Hood’s Robertson Blood Center, Scott & White and two local Walmarts planned blood drives throughout the weekend.

The urge to reach out after a tragedy, to help where possible is second nature for most Americans, but it seems even more deeply ingrained in residents of our state.

Twice in the past 22 years, Killeen-Fort Hood residents have been the grateful beneficiaries of others’ generosity and support.

Now we welcome the opportunity to respond in kind.

As a community, we know how difficult these traumatic situations can be. We also know how much the support of our neighbors is needed and appreciated.

We also know that the shock and grief the people of West are experiencing will not soon fade. For those who have lost a loved one, a co-worker or a close friend, their lives will never be the same.

But as a community, we can reach out, through our tears and shared pain, and offer our help and support — whatever form that takes.

Above all, we can offer our heartfelt prayers.

It may not seem like enough, but as those who have suffered their own pain and loss will attest, there’s nothing that means more.

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