WEST, Texas -- Even five years after a massive fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people and caused close to $200 million in damage, the fact it happened at all remains a struggle for many in close-knit West to understand.

Misty Lambert is one of them.

"I was sitting at home eating dinner, and literally your whole world blows up in your face. Just comes right at you," said Lambert.

The young mother was with her children in an apartment complex just about 100 yards away from the fertilizer plant.

When it caught fire just before 7:30 p.m., she got her kids out their second-floor unit, but then took one last look through a window.

"That was it. It split and came at us. It was like a wave of fire," said Lambert.

Misty suffered extensive burns and facial wounds when shards of glass tore through her entire body. Doctors used more than 1,000 stitches and staples during her initial treatment.

"I was in surgery for almost 22 hours. They had four plastic surgeons working on me," she said.

Like many of those injured that April 17 night, she still relives the terror. But she's determinedly pushing forward all of this time later.

"If you keep going back and looking at yourself as a victim, instead of a survivor, you're never going to be able to pick yourself up and move forward," said Lambert.

The larger community of roughly 2,800 is trying to look toward the future, even as the impact of that night lingers.

"Fifteen people died. It could've been 50 real easy and real quick," Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek said during a recent interview.

Vanek was a volunteer firefighter back in 2013.

Twelve of the 15 who died responding to the 7:29 p.m. initial call were first responders and volunteer firefighters.

"They were family. That's just not a term to me. They were family," said Vanek.

But under the leadership of Vanek, Mayor Tommy Muska, and others, the town has quietly and effectively rebuilt itself.

There is a new middle and high school.

A new nursing home is also open. It's not far from the site of the old one where those infamous images were captured of people rescuing senior citizens in those first minutes after the blast.

"We had to redo sewer and water and roads," said Vanek. "It has taken time."

Roughly 150 homes were badly damaged or destroyed, most in the hardest-hit "Zone 3" area.

Among those forced to knock down and start over was Joe Pustejovsky. He heads up the committee that oversees the town's Fallen Hero memorial, which is nearing completion.

"It hasn't been easy for the past five years. There's a process you try to go through physically, emotionally and spiritually," said Pustejovsky.

Of the 15 concrete slabs that will soon be adorned with individual busts to honor each person that lost their lives, one will be for Joe's son, Joey Jr.

He was a volunteer West firefighter that rushed to the scene shortly before the explosion.

"In my son's case, it's badge 3407," he said.

There's also a fountain that will feature an eternal flame.

And a bench at the site features an engraving that is supposed to represent the increasingly frantic heartbeat of the 12 first responders that arrived on site.

It starts at 7:29 p.m. and suddenly flat lines when their lived ended at 7:51 p.m.

The ATF continues to offer a $50,000 reward for information related to the initial fire. They revealed in 2016 that investigators have determined it was a "criminal act" because the first was intentionally set.

No arrests have ever been made.