West Focused on Moving Forward, One Year After Deadly Blast

Residents of the small Texas town of West are honoring the past but looking ahead on the one-year anniversary of a fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people.

A fire at the West Fertilizer Company triggered a blast so powerful that it leveled nearby homes and schools. Among those killed were 12 volunteer firefighters and other responders trying to help protect families and elderly residents living nearby.

There are signs of recovery, including dozens of new homes. But residents know they have a long way to go.

Focused on Faith

Many residents say their focus on faith has helped them get through the difficult year since the blast.

Phil Calvin lost his son Perry, a Navarro Mills volunteer firefighter, in the blast.

"It has been hard, but you have to have something to hold onto," said Phil Calvin. "But it has been hard, it will shake your faith, it will make you wonder why, you know?"

On the year anniversary of the deadly blast he finds comfort in a memorial in the town of Hubbard. It bears his son's name, along with 11 other first responders and two citizens killed in the explosion.

Donald Rogers, who only knew one of the first responders killed on April 16, 2013, decided to put the memorial up himself, to give people like Calvin Perry a place to go.

Rebuilding and Remembering

Carolyn and Joseph Pustejovsky lost their 29-year-old son Joey in the blast. He was a West volunteer firefighter.

"I think he is a true hero and he sacrificed his life doing what he enjoyed doing as a firefighter," said Carolyn Pustejovsky.

Not only did they lose their son, but the Pustejovsky family home was also destroyed in the blast. They are rebuilding on the same property while helping raise Joey's son, Parker.

"It is hard to believe it has already been a year. We have been so busy in our lives, trying to be there for Parker, and to rebuild our house and keep our jobs at the same time," said Joseph Pustejovsky.

"We are treasuring our memories that we have of Joey and we are moving forward," said Carolyn Pustejovsky.

The family says they're ready to move back home in the next few weeks and watch the city rebuild around them.

"We are going to get there, day by day, week by week, we are going to get there," said Joseph Pustejovsky.

Rising Up From Ruin

All around them, houses are being rebuilt.

Jordyn Russell lost her home in the explosion, but on the anniversary of the deadly blast she is getting ready to move in to a new home in the city she loves.

"You wake up, you think 'I can't believe it's been a whole year,' but it is a positive feeling too," she said. "We have all come a long way since that day."

While her home was destroyed, her spirit was not.

"I wake up every day and thank God that I am here, my parents are here, and we are all here for each other," Russell said. "We are just moving forward we are rising up."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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