Just four days after a fertilizer plant explosion took 14 of their loved ones, the people of West, Texas, found some solace Sunday. The churchgoers flocked to two very different sanctuaries -- one untouched by the explosion, the other in a hay field.
Not everyone in West has been able to return home and put on their Sunday best before heading to church. But that didn’t stop hundreds from showing up.
"This is our church," said Joann Wolf. "This is our salvation. Our house is destroyed, and we don't know what we're going to do. We don't know."
Wolf is standing in the hallway of St. Mary, Church of the Assumption, a Catholic parish in West that wasn't damaged.
Much of the area affected by the blast is still blocked off – including the building where the First Baptist Church of West usually holds services. So instead, hundreds of people gathered Sunday in a large hayfield, sitting in white folding chairs next to boxes of donated Kleenex.
First Baptist Pastor John Crowder says he started thinking about what he was going to preach after the tragedy in Boston – “Not even knowing how that message was going to be applied so personally.”
The pastor’s family hasn’t been able to return home, but they’ve heard from others that it’s pretty much gone. Despite his loss, Crowder wasn’t going to cancel services. And today he’s preaching from the flatbed of an eighteen-wheeler -- no one seems to mind.
Kalyn Streiff has been coming to services at the Baptist church since she was in elementary school. She says today is about coming together, “about praising god that we have what we have and that we didn’t lose what we could have lost.”
Officials are still working on a timeline of exactly what happened Wednesday night. They have found the center of the explosion, but don’t know what caused it. In the meantime, Union Pacific has begun repairing the railroad tracks – so at least the familiar sound of a train passing by will return to the town of West.