WACO — President Barack Obama told mourners to remember the 12 first responders killed in the explosion in West last week that the country stands with them to help restore their town.
“You are not alone, you are not forgotten,” Obama said speaking at Baylor University on Thursday. “We may not all live here in Texas, but we’re neighbors, too. We’re Americans, too. We’ll be there after the cameras leave and after the attention turns elsewhere. Your country will remain ever ready to help you recover and rebuild and reclaim your community.”
The explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant killed 14 people — including 12 first responders — injured over 200 and destroyed 142 homes and several buildings, including a nursing home and two schools.
12 flag-draped caskets laid before the stage at a memorial service in Ferrell Center at Baylor University, each with an accompanying portrait. Before the service, a screen above the stage played a photo montage of the responders set to music, including John Williams’ score to the 1978 movie, “Superman.”
Obama, who joined state and federal officials onstage at the memorial, said the volunteer responders showed courage and dedication to protecting their neighbors and community.
“The call went out to farmers and car salesmen and welders, funeral home directors, the city secretary and the mayor,” Obama said. “It went out to folks who were tough enough and selfless enough to put in a full day’s work and then be ready for more.”
Video eulogies played during the ceremony with family members and friends telling stories about their loved ones.
Gov. Rick Perry said he could offer no words to ease the pain the community has suffered but said the spirit that drove the first responders lives on.
“First responders know better than anyone there’s no such as a thing as a routine emergency,” Perry said. “The firefighters and medical technicians who died last week in West certainly knew that, but it didn't slow them down as they raced toward that burning factory.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the responders left a legacy of selflessness and courage that allowed them to face “overwhelming danger on behalf of their community.”
“When the call went out for help, these men — along with countless others in West — ran immediately toward the danger, not away from it,” Cornyn said. “They ran toward it looking for a way they might help. And though they were taken from us in a blast that shook the earth and shattered buildings, nothing will ever shake the memory of their heroism and their bravery.”