Tribute paid to fallen West first responders


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on April 25, 2013 at 8:30 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 26 at 7:47 AM

AUSTIN -- Some came by motorcycle, hundreds by truck and many more on foot, accompanied by the somber sound of pipes.

Thousands of first responders and ordinary folks gathered in Waco, in nothing short of a spectacular display of patriotism and an outpouring of thanks.

Rows of spectators lined University Parks Boulevard Thursday afternoon as a memorial procession made its way to Baylor University's Ferrell Center.

Touching down in Marine 1 shortly after 2 p.m., President Obama arrived to pay personal tribute at a memorial service for twelve first responders killed in the West Fertilizer Company factory explosion. The president told those gathered that America needs towns like West.

"We may not all live here in Texas, but we're neighbors. We're Americans too," Obama told the standing room only crowd. "We stand with you and we will not forget."

Inside an arena built for celebrations of sport, Thursday featured a celebration of life, the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the small town twenty minutes to the north.

"After the attention turns elsewhere, you country will remain ever ready to help you recover and rebuild and reclaim your community," said the president.

Over twelve coffins draped with the flags of the United States and Texas, a video screen played tributes recorded by family members, each bidding goodbye to the loved ones they lost. Governor Perry urged the community of West to take heart.

"These are volunteers, ordinary individuals blessed with extraordinary courage and a determination to do what they could to save lives," Perry said.

The events concluded a week of confusion, pain and courage for Central Texas on a note of hope.

"It basically brings out the feeling of knowing that the community cares about these fallen firemen," said Patriot Guard Rider Ken Dubois of Burleson. "It can't help but grab you."