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Disaster relief in West, Texas falling behind in shadow of Boston bombing

Posted by on Apr. 26, 2013 at 9:25 AM
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1 mom liked this

We had sent some money initially to Boston, and we were about to send some more. But I think now I will send that money to West, Texas. 


 

Disaster donations: Texas lags way behind Boston

By Blake Ellis @CNNMoneyApril 26, 2013: 6:25 AM ET

west texas devastation

West, Texas was devastated by a fertilizer plant on April 17, two days after the Boston Marathon bombings.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

As millions of dollars flood into relief efforts for the Boston bombing victims, donations to devastated West, Texas, are lagging far behind.

More than $26 million has been raised in the wake of April 15 Boston blasts. And it appears that donations for West total well under $1 million.

The Salvation Army, for example, has raised about $200,000 following the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people, injured up to 200 and destroyed more than 100 homes. It has already spent about the same amount.

The needs in 2,800-person West are vast: food, shelter and transportation for displaced families, medical help for blast survivors, and eventually assistance rebuilding an entire community -- from houses and businesses to a school and nursing home. Property losses alone are expected to exceed $100 million, according to the Insurance Council of Texas.

CNN's Impact Your World: How you can help

Dan Ford, a resident of nearby Waco and the head of the McLennan County Salvation Army, understands the outpouring of support for Boston. But he said West is suffering.

"We've been greatly overshadowed by the Boston tragedy," said Ford. "We need help."

Another local group, the West, Texas Disaster Relief Efforts Fund has raised about $140,000.

Ashley Allison, executive director of the Waco Foundation, which helped establish the fund, said some of the largest donors indicated they gave because the media isn't paying enough attention to West.

"Families are hurting no matter how much media coverage is given," said Allison.

Meanwhile, Baylor University's West Relief Fund has collected a little more than $110,000, and another $50,000 has been raised between the United Way of Tarrant County, the Society of St. Vincent dePaul's and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

The American Red Cross, as it does in most cases, is accepting general donations, some of which will be directed to West. It hasn't yet released an estimate of how much it has spent.

Related: Before and after: West, Texas plant explosion

GiveForward, a crowdfunding platform where anyone can set up a campaign and solicit donations for a cause, has been used for both of last week's tragedies.

But the site has had more than 24 crowdfunding initiatives pop up for Boston, raising $1 million so far -- compared to only six initiatives for West that have raised a mere $5,000.

The majority of the $5,000 raised on GiveForward for West victims has been dedicated to medical bills for a 2-year-old Texas survivor, Arianna Gassaway.

"Arianna has very extensive injuries including multiple broken bones, numerous lacerations and a severe head injury," the fundraiser says.

The $4,314 raised for Arianna so far is only 9% of her family's $50,000 goal.

Ethan Austin, co-founder and president of GiveForward, said the discrepancy between fundraising efforts for Boston and West likely has a lot to do with the differing emotions behind the giving.

"The explosion in Texas was an accident. The reaction was sadness. The bombings in Boston were a heinous and malicious act that brought back memories of 9/11. The reaction was anger," he said. "Stories inspiring high energy emotions like anger have a much higher likelihood of going viral. Stories inspiring low-energy emotions like sadness do not tend to go viral."

And as the media continues to focus intensely on the Boston bombing victims and suspects, people aren't hearing nearly as much about the devastation in West, said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

"When you see a disaster get a lot of attention, you see a lot of giving ... and you really don't see as many stories that show the picture of what's happening [in Texas]," said Palmer. To top of page



First Published: April 26, 2013: 6:25 AM ET 



by on Apr. 26, 2013 at 9:25 AM
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Peanutx3
by on Apr. 26, 2013 at 11:47 AM
1 mom liked this

I am saddened that this disaster has not been covered.  10 firefighters lost their lives that day.  I believe none of them were on duty.  They went to help out and now they are gone.  

Firefighters knew the risks of fertilizer and fire but rushed in anyway

The firefighters responding to last week's fire at a West, Texas, fertilizer depot knew the risky mix of fertilizer and fire. The mostly volunteer group — farmers, city employees, dads and husbands — rushed to help anyway.

They did so, knowing their fate was tied to the mounds of ammonium nitrate stocked in a shed for spring planting.

In a deafening flash, they were gone — 10 firefighters from five departments — marking the second-deadliest incident involving firefighters in Texas history and one of the worst ever in the USA.

Five of those killed were from the West Volunteer Fire Department, and at least five other firefighters were hospitalized in the April 17 blast that killed 14 people overall and injured more than 200.

Nationally, the West blast was the highest single-incident firefighter fatality count since 9/11, when 340 firefighters were killed responding to the terrorist attacks in New York, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

  • West Emergency Medical Technician Bryce Reed, center, attends a memorial service in Waco, Texas, for his brother, Cyrus Reed, and other victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
  • Family, area residents and fellow firefighters attend the West memorial service held at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The memorial service honored the volunteer firefighters who lost their lives at the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, last week.
  • President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attend a memorial service at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
  • One of Joseph Pustejousky's children reaches out to his casket following a memorial service for victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
  • Firefighter Honor Guard members transfer a dozen flags from caskets to present to family members during a memorial service for victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
  • President Obama attends a memorial for firefighters killed at the fertilizer plant explosion.
  • West emergency medical techicians Terase Alexander and Russell Lebowsky stand at the the casket of West firefighter Cyrus Reed following a memorial service for victims of the fertilizer plant explosion.
  • An honor guard salutes during a shift change before a memorial service April 25 for first responders who died in a fertilizer plant explosion. Fourteen firefighters and other first responders were killed April 17 when a burning fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas.
  • The caskets of first responders killed by the fertilizer plant blast sit in an auditorium before the start of a memorial service.
  • .
  • Members of the Patriot Guard line the road during a procession of firefighting vehicles.
  • Members of the Corvell City and Osage Volunteer Fire Department watch the parade.
  • People watch as fire trucks roll past.
  • Fire trucks take part in a procession before the start of a memorial service.
  • A firefighter salutes.
  • Tyrell Hobbs from the Groesbeck Volunteer Fire Department watches a procession of firefighting vehicles.
  • Fire trucks pass under a giant American flag.
  • Firefighting vehicles from departments around Texas pay their respects as they parade during the memorial service.
  • Members of the Patriot Guard line the road.
  • Mark Turner holds a Texas flag as he waits for a procession to pass.

The memorials, which began this week, continued Thursday with a public memorial service at Baylor University in nearby Waco, Texas, that was attended by President Obama and hundreds of fellow first responders from across the USA.

"These were some really, really dedicated people. I'm just heartbroken," West Mayor Tommy Muska said.

MORE: A look at those who were killed

Volunteer fire departments such as the one in West make up 78% of the 1,900 departments in Texas and nearly 70% of all departments across the nation, said Chris Barron, executive director of the State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas.

The last incident involving so many firefighter fatalities in a single incident was the 1947 explosion in Texas City of a ship loaded with 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate, he said. That blast killed 27 volunteer firefighters responding to the initial fire and more than 580 people overall.

Unlike full-time fire departments, such as ones found in Dallas and Houston, rural communities like West rely on volunteer firefighters who juggle those duties with outside jobs and are often less trained than career firefighters, Barron said. Of the five West volunteer firefighters killed in the blast, three had achieved a moderate level of training — known as "Firefighter 1" — and two had no certified training, Barron said.

The deaths have rocked the firefighting community nationally, many who have sent fire equipment or personnel to attend the memorials or voiced their support on a Facebook page dedicated to the victims.

"This was just devastating for the entire fire service across the country," said Kimberly Quiros of the National Volunteer Fire Council. "To lose so many in one incident has had a devastating effect. It's really horrible."

The impact has been felt most sharply in West, a city of 2,800 residents where even the mayor is a volunteer firefighter. "Everybody is at a loss right now," said councilwoman Cheryl Marak, whose husband, Marty, is a volunteer firefighter but survived the blast. "We got quite a few funerals coming up. It's really bad."

The volunteers answered the call of a fire at the West Fertilizer Company along with four other firefighters from area departments who were taking an evening training course at the West Volunteer Emergency Medical Service facility nearby and also rushed to the scene.

Among the volunteers: Cody Dragoo, 50, who worked at the fertilizer depot. Capt. Kenneth Harris, a 30-year veteran with Dallas Fire-Rescue who lived in West, also showed up and told the gathered firefighters the risks of having the fire so close to the combustible chemicals, Muska said.

"They knew it was not going to be good," he said.

On Harris' orders, the firefighters were rolling up the hose and backing the fire truck out of the property in retreat when the explosion hit, instantly killing all of the men onsite, destroying nearby homes and leaving a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep, Muska said.

This week's memorials have been a chance for the rest of the country to recognize those who died in service during the blast, he said. But it'll take a lot longer for the city to recover.

"They were part of the community," Muska said. "They were long-term citizens." He added: "I hope the American people realize these people were the best of the best."

momtoscott
by Gold Member on Apr. 26, 2013 at 11:56 AM
2 moms liked this

That is more sad news from that terrible week.  I have a lot of family in Texas, some very near this town, which has been devastated by this disaster.  I wish there were more coverage about this nationally.  

OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Apr. 26, 2013 at 12:03 PM
1 mom liked this

 I, too, wish this had more coverage.  It is devastating to so many familes and the damage is quite extensive.  I guess it isn't as sensational to the media since it was an accident and not an attack.

cjsbmom
by Lois Lane on Apr. 26, 2013 at 3:02 PM
4 moms liked this
Not that it's a contest or anything, but 14 people lost their lives in West. Another 200+ suffered injuries and nearly the entire town has been leveled. It looks like a nuclear bomb went off there. That should get some attention. At least more than it's gotten, anyway.
Quoting OHgirlinCA:

 I, too, wish this had more coverage.  It is devastating to so many familes and the damage is quite extensive.  I guess it isn't as sensational to the media since it was an accident and not an attack.


OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Apr. 26, 2013 at 4:05 PM

 Of course it isn't a contest.  Both Boston and West have suffered tremendously :(

Quoting cjsbmom:

Not that it's a contest or anything, but 14 people lost their lives in West. Another 200+ suffered injuries and nearly the entire town has been leveled. It looks like a nuclear bomb went off there. That should get some attention. At least more than it's gotten, anyway.
Quoting OHgirlinCA:

 I, too, wish this had more coverage.  It is devastating to so many familes and the damage is quite extensive.  I guess it isn't as sensational to the media since it was an accident and not an attack.

 

candlegal
by Judy on Apr. 26, 2013 at 4:21 PM
The store i work for os takimg donations for them. I have every confidence much more will be donated at least from Texas
mehamil1
by Platinum Member on Apr. 26, 2013 at 4:24 PM

This just breaks my heart. 

cjsix
by Bronze Member on Apr. 26, 2013 at 4:30 PM

 Both situations are sad and terrible but,it breaks my heart and is frustrating that there is almost no coverage of this by the media national or outside of Texas(at least where I am).They need to spend more time talking about this and telling the stories of those who live there and those who died trying to protect. One story I did see was a man( I think one of the firefighters) who said that the firefighters who died knew they probably would but,they stayed where they were fighting the fire trying to buy more time to get the residents out of the nursing home! Because of them,everyone in the nursing home was able to be gotten to safety. This town deserves more help. People here were injured,people her died and left families behind,people here lost everything they had.

Thomigirl
by Gold Member on Apr. 26, 2013 at 4:37 PM

I think it's disgusting that people are comparing these two tragedies. I assume that the majority of the media coverage fell to the Boston bombings as it was a terrorist attack.The possibility that the country was possibly being attacked was paramount in people's minds. Now, that does not in any way shape or form take a way from the tragic accident that took place in Texas. As candle said, I have no doubt that the outpouring for Texas will happen.

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Apr. 27, 2013 at 12:37 PM

distaster relief shouldn't always be disaster specific. It should be divided amongst all who need it.

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