West Community Pulls Together After Tragedy - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Fertilizer plant explosion levels several blocks of small Texas town

West Community Pulls Together After Tragedy



    Residents of West are pulling together to help each other recover after the fertilizer plant as they wait for word on when they can go home and rebuild. (Published Friday, April 19, 2013)

    The town of West is pulling together to help its residents affected by the fertilizer plant explosion that devastated the community Wednesday night.

    In West, there is no answer to the question everyone seems to be asking: when can we return home?

    The most authorities can say is "soon."

    It won't be soon enough for Julia Zaharniak, who hasn't seen her home since she and her son, Anthony, 11, were running away from their home immediately after the explosion.

    "It just really got to me because you just don't know what to expect and I don't have any answers to give to my son, other than this is where our life is right now," Zaharniak said Friday night.

    Zaharniak found herself at the donation distribution center at the West Fest Fairgrounds, sifting through donated clothes and other items.

    "I got an extra outfit which I'm wearing right now and that's the only outfit that I own," Zaharniak said.   "So I'm here to look and get me some clothes."

    The donation center is a flutter of activity with explosion survivors searching for items they need and volunteers unpacking, sorting and distributing it all as quickly as they can.

    "One of the most amazing things - most of these [volunteers] are actually the community members," said Shane Valverde, a field operations director with Team Rubicon, an organization helping to coordinate the donations.  "So most of these folks you see here are the ones who've been affected by this disaster."

    One of those volunteers is Erick Perez, 21, who witnessed the explosion first hand and captured the moment on his cell phone video camera.

    View Perez's dramatic video of the West explosion below.

    View more videos at: http://nbcdfw.com.

    Perez and some friends had been playing basketball when they noticed the flames rising from the West Fertilizer Plant.  

    Perez told NBC 5 he recorded the flames for more than eight minutes before the explosion.  The force of the blast knocked him down. The concussion and the debris combined to total his truck.

    Perez spent all day Friday helping to do whatever he could at the donation site, doing so even at the risk of hurting his own employment situation.

    "I told my boss I'm not coming in to work. If she's gonna fire me, oh well," Perez said.  "And from what I've heard I think I was fired. But I don't care. I can always find a new job.  I'm gonna go be with my friends and my community up here."

    West Fertilizer Plant Explosion
    Complete coverage of a massive fertilizer plant explosion that leveled blocks of the small Texas town of West, TX. Click here for more.