by Lynette Sowell
My front porch
When a disaster strikes, you hope you’re prepared. On Tuesday, a disaster struck Coryell County. The closing credits to a movie were rolling when I took out my phone and saw a 3:15 text that had just come in: “Coryell Memorial explosion!!!!”.
Fast forward 20 minutes and I was heading north on F.M. 116. I’d been loaded up with snacks, water, and a humongous lens for the camera. I told my husband I wasn’t sure how long I’d be. I’d been given my instructions before leaving the office: Get as close as you can without getting in the way or getting hurt and don’t go around barricades, take as many pictures as you can. I arrived a little after 4 p.m. and spent the next 90 minutes driving and walking for different vantage points, parking, then sweating and walking some more. Not a big deal, I didn’t mind…So what did I see?
I saw more emergency vehicles than I could count, along with church vans, school buses, and more. I saw more city, state and county logos than I could count, all in one place. Traffic on Highway 84 was slowed to one lane in each direction, and traffic flowed in and out. I didn’t see anyone getting cranky at the “inconvenience.”
What I saw were many moving parts and people doing what they are ready to do.
But, our county was ready. Emergency management coordinator Bob Harrell has held regular meetings of the Coryell County Local Emergency Planning Committee. I sat in one of their meetings last summer. He and reps from our own Copperas Cove, Fort Hood, Gatesville, etc., have a crisis response plan.
In fact, our county along with Fort Hood already recently staged a mock disaster on North Fort Hood in May, the incident being an “explosion” at a dining hall.
For me, it was my first time jumping into the stream of watching something of this size unfold as it happened.
One of those many moving parts was our own local constable and Cove native, Shawn Camp, helping direct traffic for hours and hours. You “did good”, Shawn, and it was a crazy-hot day and what I saw wasn’t even a fraction of everything that went on. I’m sure you were “just doin’ your job” but it was an important part of the flow.
On Tuesday, came the first press conferences at county commissioners courtroom. So around 5:30, I headed for the annex. Some of our county leadership was there, commissioners Ray Ashby and Daren Moore, along with county judge John Firth. Firth’s years of leadership experience and depth of caring for this county served him well last week.
Then there’s the Coryell Memorial Hospital staff, especially Dr. Bates, chief medical officer. He shared that his staff were already aiding the wounded by the time he located the explosion site. During the press conferences, he remained cool, collected, and concerned, as were all the ones who provided information.
Of course, “regular” citizens, regular Joes and Janes from churches, schools, businesses, individuals donated time and resources, bringing water and food to people, opening their doors while they moved more than 100 people from a nursing home and assisted living center out of the heat and danger area until everything and everyone could get sorted out.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones, and the lives of 14 others who have been irrevocably altered by what happened on Tuesday. They have long months and likely years of recovery ahead of them.
In the end, I was reminded of the words of Mr. Rogers, of something he told children when scary things happened around them.
“There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. ’There’s always someone who is trying to help.’ I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.”
Our county had a LOT of helpers and they offered a lot of help. Thanks to all.