President Obama: ‘God Bless West, Texas’
Moments ago, President Obama spoke at memorial service for the victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
He told the audience, “While the eyes of the world may have been fixed on places far away, our hearts have also been here during your time of tribulation.”
The president paid tribute to the heroic volunteer firefighters who perished after rushing to the fire, saying, “No words adequately describe the courage that was displayed on that deadly night.”
He concluded his remarks by saying, “All across America people are praying for you and thinking of you. And when we see the faces of those families, they understand that these are not strangers, these are neighbors. And that’s why we know that we will get through this. God bless West.”
Below is a transcript of the president's remarks:
Thank you Senator Cornyn, Governor Perry, President Starr, gathered dignitaries, the community of Baylor, Waco and most of all the families and the friends, neighbors of West Texas.
I cannot match the power of the voices you just heard on that video. And no words adequately describe the courage that was displayed on that deadly night. What I can do is offer the love and support and prayers of the nation.
The book of Psalms tells us "for you, oh God, have tested us. You have tried us. We went through fire and through water, yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance." We went through fire and through fire, yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. For this state, for our country, these have been trying and difficult days.
We gather here in Texas to mourn brave men who went through fire and all those who have been taken from us. We remain mindful of our fellow Americans and flooded states to the North who endure the high waters. We pray for those in Boston who've been tested and the wounded whose greatest tests still lie ahead.
But know this, while the eyes of the world may have been fixed on places far away, our hearts have also been here. Your time of tribulation. And even in the midst of such sorrow and so much pain, we recognize God's abundance. We give thanks, the courage and the compassion, the incredible grace of the people of West.
We're grateful for Mayor Mushka and Mayor Duncan and all those who have shown such leadership during this tragedy. And to the families, the neighbors grappling with unbearable loss, we are here to say you are not alone. You are not forgotten. We may not all live here in Texas but we're neighbors too. [APPLAUSE] We're Americans too. And we stand with you and we do not forget and we'll be there even after the cameras leave. And after the attention turns elsewhere. Your country will remain ever ready to help you recover and help rebuild and reclaim your community. [APPLAUSE]
Now until last week, I think its fair to say that few outside this state had ever heard of West. And I suspect, that's the way most people in West like it. [LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE] Now it is true that weary travelers and now the wider world.
Now until last week, I think its fair to say that few outside this state had ever heard of West. And I suspect, that's the way most people in West like it. [LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE] Now it is true that weary travelers and now the wide world, know they can rely on the Checkstop for a brief respite and a sprite on a long stretch of highway. I want to say, by the way, out of all the former presidents in Dallas send their thoughts and prayers. George W. and Laura Bush spoke long about the lodges (?)- even about their company as they drove through West.
What they understood and what all of you understand is what makes West special is not the attention coming from faraway places. What makes West special -what puts it on the map - is what makes it familiar. The people who live there. Neighbors you can count on.
Places that haven't changed. Things that are solid and true and lasting.
Most people in West know everybody in West. Many of you are probably a descendent of some of those first settlers. Hearty immigrants who crossed an ocean and just kept on going. So for you there's no such thing as a stranger.
When someone's in need, you reach out to them and you support them. You do what it takes to help them carry on.
That's what happened last Wednesday when a fire alarm sounded across a quiet Texas evening. As we've heard, the call went out to volunteers. Not professionals. People who just love to serve. People who want to help their neighbors. The call went out to farmers, car salesman, welders, funeral home directors. The city's secretary and the mayor. It went out to folks that were tough enough and selfless enough to put in a full day's work and then be ready for more.
And together, you answered the call. You dropped your schoolwork, left your families, jumped in fire trucks and rushed to the flames.
When you got to the scene, you forgot fear and fought that blaze as hard as you could knowing the danger.
Buying time so others could escape. And then 20 minutes after the first alarm, the earth shook and the sky went dark.
And West changed forever. Today our prayers are with the families of all who we lost. The proud sons and daughters of West whose memories will live on in our hearts. Parents who loved their kids and leaders who served their communities. They were young and old from different backgrounds and different walks of life.
A few were just going about their business. An awful lot ran towards the scene of the disaster trying to help. One was described as the kind of guy who's phone was always ringing with people in the need of help.
Help he always provided. That's just who these folks were.
Our thoughts are with those faced a long road. The wounded, the heartbroken, families who lost their homes and possessions in an instant. They're going to need their friends in West but their also going to need their friends in Texas and friends all across this country.
They'll still need you to answer that call and we'll still need those things that are lasting and true. Scripture teaches us, a friend loves at all times and a brother is born in adversity. For people of West, just as we've seen loved shared in better times as friends, brothers, and sisters. These hard days have shown your ability to stand tall in times of unimaginable adversity.
You saw leaders like Mayor (?) who lost their friends, you saw the hospice staff who spent the night treating people they knew, toiling through their tears as they did what had to be done. We saw the folks that helped evacuate an entire nursing home including one man who drove an elderly resident to safety and then came back to do it again twice.
We saw in a people so generous that when the Red Cross set up a shelter for folks who couldn't go back to home, not that many people showed up because most had already been offered a place to stay with their friends and family and neighbors.
Complete strangers drove from hundreds of miles to donate supplies.
Firefighters from surrounding communities manned the stations so surviving volunteers could recover from their wounds. Right here in Waco, students stood in line for hours to give blood. A nearby school district opened its doors to students who can't go back to their classrooms, putting welcome signs on lockers and in the hallway.That's the thing about this tragedy this small town's family is bigger now It extends beyond the boundaries of West. And in the days ahead this love and support will be more important than ever because there will be moments of doubt and pain the temptation to wonder how this community will ever fully recover.
The families who lost such remarkable men of the sort that we saw in that video, they're going to be times when they simply don't understand how this could have happen but today I see in the people of west, in your eyes what makes West special isn't going to go away and instead of changing who you are this tragedy simply reveals who you've always been.
It's the courage of Deborah Sullock the cashier that works around the corner from the fire station she said it's going to be tough for the families but we're going to rebound because we are fighters and that courage is going to bring us back (applause)
It's the love of Carla Louis who used to live in West but now lives in Austin and last week she drove all the way back.
I had to here she said, you have to be here for family… that love will keep us going
It's the faith of someone like pastor john Crowder that wills sustain the good people of West for as long as it takes.. his church was damaged in the explosion so on Sunday his congregation assembled outside… what happened Wednesday was awful he told them but God is bigger than all of this, God is bigger than all of this. (applause) And he's here with you in West.
He is bigger than all of this and he is here with you going forward it's not just you town that needs you love, courage and faith America does too
We need towns where if you don't know what your kids are up to then chanced are your neighbors do too and they'll tell on those kids in a second
America needs towns that hold fundraiser to help folks pay the medical bills and then take the time to drop off a home cooked meal because they know a family is under stress
America needs communities where there always someone to call if your car gets stuck or your house gets flooded. We need people who so love their neighbors as themselves they're willing their live s for them, America needs towns like West… (applause) that's what makes America great towns like West
For you oh God have tested us, tried us. We went through fire and water yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. You have been tested West you have been tried you have gone through fire but you have, are and always be surrounded by an abundance of love. You saw it in the voices on those videos, you see in the firefighters and first responders that who are here. (applause)
All across America, all across America people are praying for you and thinking of you and when they see the faces of those families they understand that these are not strangers these are neighbors and that's why we know we will get through this.
God bless West. May God grant his peace on those that we've lost his comfort on their families and may he continue this great state of Texas and may he continue to bless these United States of America