WEST, Texas — The crowd that had gathered — lighting candles, offering prayers, crying as they tightly embraced family and friends — had streamed from the dimly lighted sanctuary of Assumption Catholic Church, but Kelly Nelson lingered behind.
“The people who we lost, these are people I know, I see on a daily basis,” Nelson said. “Knowing that I’m never going to see these people on the Earth again is very difficult for me to handle.”
On Wednesday night, a blast at a fertilizer plant rocked this small east-central Texas town. A day later Nelson and hundreds of others gathered in the red brick Assumption church. Nelson wasn’t the only one to stay behind after the service concluded. A pair of young men sobbed as they knelt before the altar. Others stared blankly forward as they sat in the pews. In a time when residents of West sought hard-to-find clarity, they are relying on faith.
“If this town didn’t have faith,” Nelson, 29, said, “it wouldn’t have anything.”
The people who know West well say it’s a little town known for many things: Its Czech heritage. Its kolaches, a Czech pastry that’s something of a delicacy in the region. Its ability to have a good time.
But what’s proving most important now is its faith.
“Their faith is so strong here, and it can only get greater,” said Father Ed Karasek, pastor of Assumption.