By Jeff Brumley
At times, the citizens of West, Texas, are able to glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel in their recovery from the April factory explosion that cratered their city and lives.
Slowly, homes are being repaired and rebuilt. Neighbors are coming back together through acts of kindness — large and small.
One of those came recently when Texas boot maker Justin Brands, Inc. made a donation of 548 pairs to the West Volunteer Fire Department, which in turn gave 300 remaining pairs to First Baptist Church.
Pastor John Crowder then put a simple note on Facebook offering the boots to any West resident who needed them.
“And the thing went viral,” Crowder told ABPnews on Thursday. “We had 64 direct shares . . . and over 6,000 views.”
It didn’t stop there, though.
“I got phone calls and e-mails and people were hitting me up on Facebook and Twitter . . . and in about two hours we were out.”
Two hours to give away 300 pairs of boots, he said, shows just how much need remains in the town where where the West Fertilizer Co. explosion killed 15, including a dozen firefighters, and injured hundreds more.
Scores of homes were destroyed or damaged so badly they were uninhabitable.
Crowder, whose church has been the hub of recovery efforts, estimates it will take $35 million to get everyone back home. So far less than $4 million has been collected.
“That makes it very difficult because we can’t give everybody what they they need,” he said.
West wouldn’t even be that far without help from others, he said.
In June, the Baptist General Convention of Texas coordinated “Loving West,” a weeklong volunteer effort aimed at clearing debris and other tasks needed to make rebuilding possible. About 650 members of churches from around the state participated.
Other help is coming, Crowder said. Habitat for Humanity has committed to build three homes in West while the Mennonite group Christian Aid Ministries plans 15.
“We are going through a very difficult time emotionally, and experts have told us this is the natural course,” he said. “That includes a time of anger and depression and we’re just about to come out of that.”
People should also start or continue praying for the city, Crowder added.
“Early on I told how I wasn’t sleeping and eating and I was exhausted every day, yet I had the strength to continue,” he added. “I think that’s because folks were praying for us.”