Last week a small town about 90 miles to the north of us, West, was brought into the national spotlight when a fertilizer production plant explosion killed 14 and injured about 200 people. Through the media, requests went out for donations of blood for the injured, and clothing, toiletries, water, blankets, and baby care items for all those affected. So in last week's newsletter/blog post, The Yoga Room organized a donation drive on Thursday and in less than 3 days, we collected enough donations to fill an SUV.
On Sunday I drove to West to deliver our donations, and I was overcome with emotion at the beauty of hundreds of volunteers coming together to sort and distribute donations in West. When it was my turn to back my SUV up to the donation center, which was a large pavilion on the West Fair Grounds, a group of men and boys rushed up to help me unload. I was really choked up. I had a short conversation with one of the men and it was all I could do to say how beautiful it was for so many people to come together and help in this difficult time. He kindly replied, "We don't need the government - we got this." With or without government help, the power and love of humanity was strongly evident in West that day. As I drove away from the donation center, I began to cry and I had to pull off the dirt road to regain my composure.
When I left the Fair Grounds, I spent a few minutes driving around the town. I saw dozens of catastrophe response vehicles (mostly insurance companies), a makeshift clinic offering tetanus shots, restaurants with Closed signs on their front doors, dozens of news vehicles, dozens of state troopers, businesses with boarded windows, people standing around in the streets of downtown, people standing outside their houses, little handmade signs directing people to the donation drop off location, and a Jack in the Box food truck offering free food. It was undoubtedly a big increase in traffic for this small town.
Visiting West in the wake of the tragic fertilizer plant explosion was an overwhelming and maybe even life-altering experience for me. It took me a several days to process and make sense of it.
On one hand there is the enormity of the tragedy, the loss of life, the injuries, the destruction of property. I witnessed West as a disaster zone. And we see images of disasters online and on TV all the time, but experiencing it in person is a whole different thing. It feels heavy and real.
On the other hand there is the profound outpouring of love by the "helpers," to quote the term from the widely circulated Mr. Roger's quote from last week. These volunteers came out in the hundreds to help the people of West, and it was a beautiful sight to see. I'm proud that we all were able to help in our own small way.
Many blessings to the people of West, and many blessings to the helpers during this difficult time.