In my home state, people know you could be talking about two different parts of Texas depending on where you put the inflection and pauses when you say the words “West Texas.”
If you’re speaking of West Texas, you’re talking about endlessly flat plains where you might see a fair number of tumbleweeds as you make your way toward New Mexico.
If you’re speaking of West, pause, Texas, well, you’re talking about a tiny little town of about 2,800 people.
To the uninitiated it was once barely a blip on the radar as you traveled along the I-35 corridor that runs from north of Dallas-Fort Worth down through Waco, Austin, San Marcos and San Antonio, all the way down to Laredo at the Mexican border. It’s just one of a countless number of tiny towns along the way that might have a gas station or Sonic for passers-by in need of a pit stop.
To Texans like myself, used to traveling that strip of highway, it’s THE pit stop. You may really want something to drink or need to use the facilities in Hillsboro or Waco, but you’re going to hold out the extra 15 minutes until West because it comes with something extra special: kolaches, delicious little danishes born out of the Czech heritage so celebrated in that tiny community.
Now the rest of the nation knows West as that city outside of Waco that was devastated by the explosion of a fertilizer plant Wednesday night. As of this writing, CNN said the death toll stood at 35 souls, with more than 160 injured.
Dozens of the injured were transported to the trauma center at the Waco hospital where I was born. Countless homes, an apartment building, a school and nursing home were flattened by the blast. Residents and even emergency officials were evacuated under threat of a second explosion and kept out due to chemical fumes.