West homeowners recovering, school to open Monday


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist SCOTT McKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE


Posted on April 19, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 19 at 7:42 PM

WEST, Texas -- Shards of metal litter a field on the edge of West. Pieces of the fertilizer plant are still smoldering.

Half a mile away from the plant, law enforcement officers are still keeping people out of their homes as crews check yards for debris and structural damage.

"We're frustrated because my sister-in-law and many others can't get to their house. And we understand why. We understand why, but you know, when they get to their house, I don't think it's hit them how bad it's gonna be, everything, the devastation," said West resident Debbie Polansky.

Polansky was sitting outside Wednesday night when the plant exploded.

"Just bam, in the air. It looked like an atomic bomb. I mean our whole body, teeth and everything just rattled," she said. 

Her sister-in-law lives across the railroad tracks from the plant.

"I said you better get over here and I mean right when I said it I heard them scream, the car exploded, caved in on top of them," Polansky said.

Polansky's relatives made it out and are now staying with her.

As they wait for answers, down the street teachers, counselors and administrators are preparing West Elementary School for class Monday.

"A lot of these families that have lost their homes as well, they need to get their kids back in school so they can take care of what they need to take care of," said West School Board President Larry Hykel.

Some in the town are torn by that decision.

"They need to wait," said Polansky. "There's gonna be funerals going on, you know. And people's lost their dads and husbands and fathers and uncles."

But others say West needs to restore a sense of normalcy to start healing.

"We will rise out of these ashes, I promise you that. I know that for a fact because that is just the way West is," Hykel said. 

Three of the district's four campuses were heavily damaged. So Pre-K through 6th grade will go to the elementary school and 7th through 12th will be bused to a campus at a nearby district.

Other districts from across the state are pitching in to donate supplies, portable buildings and even school buses.