WEST, Texas (KWTX) Hundreds of people from the city of West and the surrounding area gathered at the West High School auditorium today for the Fallen Heroes Memorial ceremony.
Originally scheduled to be at the memorial the event was moved indoors due to weather.
The memorial was dedicated to those who lost their lives in the deadly fertilizer plant explosion nearly 6 years ago on April 17th, 2013.
Photos and videos of the memorial were shown.
Guest speakers including Governor Greg Abbott, admired how the city overcame the tragedy.
"I’m so proud of the leadership here and everyone in this community," says Governor Abbott, "they were able to re-gather themselves after the most horrific loss they’ve ever experienced. Piece-by-piece, step-by-step they were able to put West back together, and for my observation driving through town today West is better than it’s ever been."
Longtime resident Joe Pustejovksy, whose son Joey perished in the powerful blast, served as Chair for the Memorial Committee.
"We never hung our heads down, no 'oh woe is me' or 'why me' or anything like that," says Pustejovsky, "It’s always been let’s pull together, let’s get it together."
The memorial is near Parker’s Park, named in honor of Pustejovksy’s grandson Parker, who was determined to see West City Park rebuilt after the explosion that claimed his father’s life.
Parker proposed paying for the new park by selling hot dogs, and that’s what supporters did, raising $83,000 in the first of a series of fundraisers that generated tens of thousands of dollars in donations.
Organizers had hoped to dedicate the Fallen Heroes Memorial in 2018 on the fifth anniversary of the explosion, but it wasn’t ready and they wanted it to be perfect.
The fire at the fertilizer plant started at 7:29 p.m. on April 17, 2013.
West firefighters were dispatched to the plant at 7:32 p.m., arrived at 7:38 p.m. and requested assistance from other departments at 7:41 p.m.
The plant exploded at 7:51 p.m.
As much as 64 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in the building, 28 to 34 tons of which exploded.
An additional 20 to 30 tons in the building and another 100 tons in a nearby railcar did not explode.
The blast affected a 37-block area and left a crater 90 feet wide and 12 feet deep.
It damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings including a nursing home, a two-story apartment building and three of West’s schools.