Some were confused amid the chaos following last Wednesday’s massive fertilizer plant explosion. Others knew exactly what happened and just how devastating the effects would be.
“We’re all okay, but my God, what has happened?” said one caller, her voice quavering, as she spoke to a 911 dispatcher.
Another woman could be heard saying “the fertilizer plant just blew up, so we have a major catastrophe.”
One caller described how the blast rattled her home-one that withstood the explosion, while so many others were leveled.
“All of our windows just broke,” she said on the phone. “I don’t know what happened. And the house shook and the power went out.”
Callers began telling 911 operators how they were rushing to help their neighbors who were injured.
“People are cut up. I got them out of the house,” said one man. “I dug them out.”
Meanwhile, one first responder began to grasp the extent of destruction and called for reinforcements after witnessing how badly the town’s nursing home was damaged.
“We need as many east Texas trucks as you can send this way,” one man told a dispatcher.
Nearly all 50 calls that flooded in during the 35 minutes following the explosion came from within a mile of the plant.
On Monday, students in West returned to class for the first time since the explosion after neighboring schools scrambled to ready classrooms after the town’s middle, intermediate and high schools were damaged.
Teachers and administrators were there to greet them with hugs and handshakes as they stepped off of the bus. The town’s elementary school was not in the blast zone.
Many of the teachers who welcomed the students Monday had not yet been able to return to their own homes following the explosion.
Some residents who live on the perimeter of the blast zone are being allowed to return to their homes. But people who lived closer to the plant are not allowed in at this point.
Numerous federal and state authorities including the State Fire Marshal’s office and ATF are still in West combing through piles of rubble in what they’re calling a “slow, methodical process” to find out what caused the explosion.
“Much like an archaeological dig, we're layering through everything as we try and get the answers,” said Kelly Kistner, Assistant State Fire Marshal.
Authorities tried to create a 3D image Monday of the crater caused by the explosion to better understand the impact.
Kistner says there is no timeline in which the investigation is expected to wrap up.
West Mayor Steve Vanek said Monday that the town has run out of room to store supplies donated in the wake of the blast.
Relief personnel are now asking that people who still want to help make monetary donations to fund future supplies.