search for information and answers
following this explosion was not easy.
Still isn’t. There was a lot of finger-point-
ing at the start—many referrals. “Maybe
you should try [fill in the blank]. Yeah,
call them.” Or worse, “Call the plant.”
Turns out (so it would seem) no one
was intentionally scapegoating, because
no one actually knew whom to call.
For days after this tragedy, I received as
many calls and emails seeking answers
as I was making to get them myself. In
this case, when a community is literally
rocked and its well-being is at stake, well,
that is terrifying.
Ammonium nitrate is the same type
of stuff Timothy McVeigh used to blow
up the Oklahoma City federal building
in 1995—stored within quick walking
distance to a middle school entrance. Gov.
Rick Perry has been heavily criticized, with
local editorialists citing his movement
toward what some may call over-the-top
deregulation in an effort to lure businesses
to Texas. It has worked, apparently.
Meanwhile, federal and state lawmakers have called for intense debate
regarding the oversight and regulation of
facilities like West Fertilizer.
But will this soap-boxing stand up
against the potential that the explosion at
this facility was no accident? Does political outrage wane? Do reporters turn to
exposing Reed in every way imaginable?
Say authorities find enough on Reed to
connect him to the fire that eventually led
to the explosion at the plant.
All the points regarding holes in insur-
ance requirements, workplace safety, risk
management, oversight, and land-use
planning remain as firm as the days prior
to us learning of Reed. But do they per-
sist against a backdrop of what could be
a criminal act? If and when the West Fer-
tilizer explosion fades as a springboard
for change, will change indeed occur? HancockCCFPhalfad.qxd:HCC 5/15/13 8:02 AM Page 1
My inkling in Texas (again, creating a
hypothetical scenario in which Reed is to
blame) is that no matter how much you
attempt to convince those responsible for
change the disaster as we knew it before
Reed entered the picture could have
happened and still exposes a multitude of
inadequacies in the system, folks would
shoot back with, “It hadn’t happened in
X-number of many years and it wouldn’t
have happened without a guy planting an
As it is, the earth-shattering blast in
West seems to have done little to sway
the local perception of government regu-
lations, at least according to what I have
read in local Texas media.
Whether a young paramedic is tied
to this disaster, I’m hoping the journalism world continues to reveal the roots
of the underlying problems that seem to
permeate the state. And I hope lawmakers continue to demand answers and
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