For West residents, ruling reopens wounds
WEST, Texas – Wednesday's announcement by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosions was a painful sting for many residents of the small, central Texas town.
Those who survived the blast at the West Fertilizer Company and have rebuilt said they never expected to hear the fire that triggered the explosion was intentionally set.
"I was sitting on my porch, talking to a friend of mine," said Mandy Jares.
Jares remembers the day her town changed.
"I've gotten used to it, but every now and then," said Jares.
Jares lived near the fertilizer company and was home when the plant exploded.
"It blew me forward," said Jares.
Jares home was destroyed, and her son, eight at the time, was nearly killed.
"He was in a corner of his room to where he was sheltered, because the entire ceiling had collapsed on his bed," said Jares.
Jares also knew several of the firefighters and paramedics killed in the blast.
"We lost really great people," said Jares.
Hearing the fire that triggered the explosion was intentionally set was a piece information Jares never expected.
"This is opening the wound again," said Jares. "I don't really know what to think about it yet. It's kind of a lot to process."
Most in West had the same reaction, all saying they believed what happened three years ago was anything but criminal.
"Oh, my God, that is awful," said one resident. "We didn't have no clue. We thought it was an accident."
Jares said she's not sure how the town will ultimately come to terms with the ATF's ruling, but she said one thing is certain. West remains strong.
"My whole life this is where I've lived," said Jares. "We are a resilient town, absolutely."
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