D Magazine’s Zac Crain is Facebook friends with practically half the town of West. He grew up just 500 yards from the fertilizer plant that exploded a year ago. He talked with KERA about life after the explosion. “It worried me that it was a town that could die out," he said. Crain reflected on the town the morning after the explosion. (Here's an expanded version.) Crain also profiled the town for D in July.
Interview Highlights: Zac Crain on ...
… the injuries following the explosion: “The most amazing thing to me was when I was walking around and talking to people … how many near misses there were. There were a lot of people ... people on the corner, the woman who is blind and her husband is blind in one eye. There are a lot of other injuries beyond the deaths. And people who still need help.”
… the West mayor: “Tommy Muska, the mayor, I’ve known him forever. He’d come in and bring in a couple of boxes of kolaches to remind everybody that Westfest was coming up. And I’d talk with him for a few minutes. ... To see how strong he was and how when crisis came through, that was amazing to see. ... He’s hanging in there. I think everybody is.”
… the world focusing on West: “It’s a crazily small town. Every time I bring it up to people and [they say] ‘I grew up in a small town, too,’ they always say 15,000 people. Well I say ‘My town is smaller than 3,000.’ It was crazy to see everyone in the world at least for a day or two focusing on West. I never ever imaged that would happen.
… West today: “Everybody had troubles getting over what had happened. They put a brave face on in the beginning. Things are better now. But in the middle part, where they were struggling with insurance companies and whether they’d get the money to rebuild and they’d been away from their homes for months at a time. I think everyone had their darker moments – it’s natural. Everybody I talked to -- they seem like they’ve bounced back.”
… his hopes for West: “I have the same hopes they do that everything is the same -- that’s what they want. They just want a house like they had and stuff like they had and life like they had. I think they want to be normal. I feel like it’s getting that way. After a few months when it looked like they weren’t going to get FEMA money and some of the other stuff they needed to repair the infrastructure – schools, sewer lines, streets. It worried me that it could be a town that could die out. It seems like it’s pointed in that direction of just getting normal again. That’s all I want for them, just to have the life they had before.”