WACO, Texas — President Barack Obama on Thursday consoled a rural Texas community rocked by a deadly fertilizer plant explosion, telling mourners they are not alone in their grief and they will have the nation’s support to rebuild.
“This small town’s family is bigger now,” Obama said during a memorial service at Baylor University for victims of last week’s explosion in nearby West, Texas, that killed 14 and injured 200. Nearly 10,000 gathered to remember the first responders killed in the blast, a crowd more than triple the size of West’s entire population of 2,700.
“To the families, the neighbors grappling with unbearable loss, we are here to say you are not alone. You are not forgotten,” Obama said to applause.
The April 17 explosion left a crater more than 90 feet wide and damaged dozens of buildings, displacing many residents from their homes.
The Insurance Council of Texas estimates it caused more than $100 million in damage, and crews were sifting the rubble to search for clues to what caused the explosion or whether foul play was involved.
The blast came about 20 minutes after a fire was reported at West Fertilizer. Ten of those killed were first responders who sped out to the nighttime blaze.
The memorial service honored those first responders and two civilians who tried to fight the fire and were posthumously named volunteer first responders.