By Taylor Rexrode
Since the fertilizer plant explosion Wednesday in West, students have responded swiftly with prayers, donations and relief for victims.
On Diadeloso—this year, known as “DiadelWest”—students gathered supplies, waited for hours in lines to give blood and attended the community-wide Five For Fighting Benefit Concert, raising funds to aid victims.
But the relief didn’t stop with the concert Thursday night. On Friday morning, Carter Bloodcare parked two donation buses outside Marrs McLean Gym and Vara Martin Daniel Plaza on Fifth Street. Students started donating blood at 10:30 a.m., maintaining a constant line of students ready to give blood for the approximately 200 people who were injured in West. The drive ended at 4 p.m.
At 2 p.m., students still waiting in line admitted to waiting an hour and half outside the buses, and the lines for each bus stretched back about 20 people. Of those in line, Tulsa, Okla. freshman Allison Russell said she felt especially drawn to the cause for the sake of a close friend.
“Her family lives in West and one of her relatives died the other day. To see her cry was very emotional,” Russell said.
Another student, Huntsville senior Chelsea Baker also waited in line to give blood because of someone close to her.
“My boyfriend is from West and a lot of his friends and family were affected by the blast,” Baker said. “We are doing whatever we can to help.”
Baker said that the relief efforts put together by Baylor and the Waco community have made her proud to be a part of Baylor Nation.
“I’m really proud of everyone that has come out and everyone that has made such a big effort to support the people around them,” Baker said. “It says a lot about Baylor and a lot about the type of students we have here and even the type of people that are in Waco.”
Kristin McGuinty, the recruitment manager for Carter Bloodcare in Waco, estimated that around 80 people would be seen to give donations by the time the drive was over. McGuinty said the drive went non-stop since 11:00 a.m. this morning.
West, just 17 miles from campus with less than 3,000 people, is the home of 13 students, 43 faculty and staff and 262 alumni. It is estimated that 50 houses and establishments were decimated by the blast and the death toll was last estimated between five and 15 people. The bodies of 14 people were recovered by Friday night.
Due to the severity of the disaster and need for relief, President Barack Obama has issued a declaration of emergency and pledged to provide aid to Texas for the town of West. He offered his sympathies to the community and pledged that the town will receive resources necessary to rebuild their homes and businesses.
It is uncertain when the town will be ready to start rebuilding itself. For now, victims can find necessities, like food, water, toiletries and clothing at the West Fest Fairgrounds at 1507 Main St. in West. Several students and Wacoans have been volunteering at fairgrounds on the southeast side of town.
Carollton junior Hayley Rabe volunteered Friday afternoon, passing out necessary items to West residents.
“I think will all the bad stuff happening, it’s really encouraging to come here and there’s a warehouse full of more things than they could ever need,” Rabe said.
New Braunfels junior Ashley Smith said she felt inspired to help out because one of her roommates Marissa Marak, a junior, is from West.
“It’s been really special,” Smith said. “Her family is really harshly affected by it. Just hearing her encouraging words, saying that this is overwhelming and it’s unbelievable the support they’ve had, just knowing that we can help and we can be a part of it is really great.”
Nacogdoches sophomore Savannah Binford spent her afternoon sorting Bibles and personal hygiene products for West residents.
“This is what I really wanted to do,” Binford said. “It’s one thing to hear about it and watch it on the news and know that it’s close by, and then be around the people and actually serve them face-to-face, so it’s been good to kind of bring a smile to their faces.”
More volunteers are needed at the fairgrounds Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. To stay involved, students are encouraged to follow Baylor’s response at www.baylor.edu/relief or “like” the Facebook page called “Baylor Supports West” to get updates on what volunteer work is needed.
Derek Byrne, Round Up Yearbook Editor, contributed to this story