Word of the explosion at a fertilizer plant in West quickly spread through social media and word of mouth, and Baylor University students did what little they could to offer support Thursday morning.
Roughly 85 students — some from Baylor, some from high school and McLennan Community College, among others — gathered for a midnight prayer vigil at Baylor’s Waco Hall.
Some came for emotional and spiritual support. Some wanted to find out how to donate their time. Others, including the organizer of the event, were trying to make sense of Wednesday night’s events.
“One of my best friends, her aunt’s house had been burned,” Ben Prado said. “She was crying and as soon as I could, I got a hold of some people and said, ‘What can we do?’ ”
Attendees lit candles, sang hymns and dried each others’ eyes. Many discussed how they discovered the tragedy.
“I saw a picture from the perspective of the Czech Stop, and I thought it was a very small explosion out in the country,” said Charles Bussell, who graduated from Midway High School.
Once he learned the truth of the size of the blast, he had just one word: “Shocked.”
Bussell, along with several others, headed to buy supplies after the event.
“I’ve already received plenty of calls from students that were affected,” said David G. Henry, a Baylor professor who also works as a counselor.
Henry said a fellow co-worker’s daughter and son-in-law lost their house in the explosion.
“One of my first concerns was for the kids here, not only for their impact, but these are the kinds of kids that are going to go and help. So I’m thinking, ‘What can I do to help them help?,’ ” he said.
At the event, Baylor announced a website to help — www.baylor.edu/relief. It’s one of many such sites set up for people hoping to help.
Still, it’s difficult for some to imagine a familiar site destroyed.
“I’ve been to the fertilizer plant, I’ve been up and down that road,” Prado said. “It’s crazy to think it’s not there any more.”