West reflects, looks to push forward on anniversary of explosion

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 7:46 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 17 at 10:46 PM

WEST, Texas -- The mood in a small community that lost 15 people in a fertilizer plant explosion exactly one year ago was a mix of reflection and optimism on Thursday.

While many in West wanted to remember the day privately, another 1,500 attended an evening ceremony to honor those who lost their lives.

"The debt we owe those firefighters and EMT's is indefinable because how much is a human life worth," said Reverend Terry McElrath during the service. 

On April 17, 2013, the West Fertilizer Co. plant caught fire around 7 p.m. Nearly an hour later, at 7:51 p.m., the plant exploded. Twelve first responders and three citizens lost their lives.

A moment of silence was held during the ceremony at 7:51 p.m.

As emotional as the evening was, the town also used the gathering as a time to push forward.

"The city will have a new normal, we just don't know what that is going to look like yet," said Mayor Tommy Muska.

Earlier in the day, flowers and makeshift memorials were set up near the town's volunteer fire department.  Five of those killed served in the department.

The department's chaplain said the anniversary was actually a good point for families to push forward.

“It does mean we’re going to be past all those firsts -- past the birthdays and Christmas that our families that lost loved ones had to face," said Robert Payne.

Kelly Pustejovsky lost her husband, Joey. She told News 8 on Wednesday how important it is to keep her husband's memory and the memory of all the fallen firefighters alive.

"Cherish what you have, because you never know when it's going to be gone," she said.

Many families that lost loved ones sported t-shirts at the service with the name of the person that died printed on the back.

On Wednesday, the state announced an additional $4.5 million in aid to the town.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com 

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