WEST, TX (CNN) - West, Texas, isn't just a town. It's a family.
That's why it hurt so much one year ago Thursday when an enormous explosion at a fertilizer plant claimed 15 lives while destroying 120 homes and damaging 200 others across 37 blocks, shattering windows well beyond that. The blast was earth-shattering, registering on seismographs as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake and shaking homes 50 miles away.
The 10-foot crater the blast left behind pales in comparison to the holes left in the hearts of the town's 2,800 residents. "No one's life was untouched," says Mimi Montgomery Irwin, owner of the Village Bakery, a local gathering spot.
Everyone felt the blast: Those who buried loved ones and the neighbors who consoled them. The displaced students learning Shakespeare in trailers because their schools were condemned. Homeowners left without a home and the friends who took them in.
Mayor Tommy Muska is "not surprised at all" by how his community came together. Some might attribute this spirit to the resiliency of the Czechs who helped settle and still help define the community. Others may credit the strong faith of its residents. Or it may be a product of life in a place where everyone knows everyone and won't leave their neighbors behind. It's telling that, in a town of 2,800, very few left.
Thanks to this hard work, this unity, these values, not to mention well-placed, much-needed government assistance, the mayor says, "We're going to have a new normal someday."
But that day isn't here.
And the old normal in West isn't coming back.