Homecoming for some residents in West blast zone



Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas


Posted on April 20, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Updated Saturday, Apr 20 at 11:04 PM

WEST, Texas — The most fortunate survivors of Wednesday's massive explosion in West, Texas lined up to go home Saturday afternoon... because they have homes.

The ones who lost the most must wait the longest — until it is safe.

Workers spent Saturday morning blocking off streets with concrete barriers to control access.

There was one scare when police ordered people on the perimeter to move back because of a possible chemical hazard.

But at 2 p.m., Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek gave the all-clear to residents of this city of 2,800.

"Everything is safe, safe, and safe," he emphatically declared.

It was nearly four o'clock when the long line of weary and frustrated residents finally got to drive into their quaint old neighborhood several blocks from the site of the explosion.

Korean War vet Bill Hromadka said he was sitting outside last Wednesday evening when everything went black.

Hromadka — who said he's "80-something" — vowed to stay put, flushing and brushing with bottled water until service is restored.

"It sure is lonely," he lamented.

Most residents came back just long enough to board up windows and grab medicines. There is no water or gas, and authorities are strictly enforcing a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.

Wind chimes, doves and flapping American flags made almost the only noise.

One of those flags flew at half-staff in front of the home of volunteer firefighter Joey Pustejovsky, who died in the blast.

Homes on his street still stand pretty much unscarred.

Stained glass windows in First Baptist Church still reflect light... and hope. But Sunday worship will happen in a field blocks away, because the church building is in the restricted area.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com