Newspaper Archive of
Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
April 24, 2013     Hays Free Press
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April 24, 2013

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THEY REALLY SAID THAT?. "1do not feel comfortable saddling a seven year agreement on the city council. It does not feel right." - Buda Mayor Todd Ruge, on Chester Davis asking for a variance on his fireworks store Page4A Hays Free Press = April 24, 2013 HIP CZECH uthor Tom Wolfe once said, "You can't go home again." That's because going back to your hometown is tough. You get pulled between visiting with family and old friends. You recognize people, but can't put names with faces. But going back when your hometown is in crisis is terrible - and yet, wonderful. The horror of the explosion in West was reported all over the media. It seems that so many people in journalism know I am fromWest. They sent messages. They asked me to connect them with people in West. They sent me notes. "No, it's not as bad as a war scene .... I've been to war." Or "Hey, the downtown is fine. But there are people really hurting here." That's the kind of message that made me go "home." That - and the need to help in some way. Because, no matter where you go, no matter how far away you live, you need to go to your home- town when a crisis hits. Because people in small towns take care of each other. And so it was that I went to West on Sunday, bringing school sup- plies and helping my sister, Sandra Ketfler, called "the high-stnmg school secretary in the vortex of activity" by National Public Radio reporter John Burnett, with what- ever she needed. ] met people as we put up bul- letin boards inWest Elementary. I talked to old friends. I spent time with a cousin, who I used to think of as that "little kid". The elementa- ry school was abuzz, as volunteers, employees, teachers and friends pitched in to make sure that the school was welcoming to those children who will likely be suffer- ing trauma from the April 17 West fertilizer plant explosion. The experience of coming together with old - and new- friends was a welcome one. While never venturing into the five-block explosion radius, I talked with resi- dents and volunteers about their experiences. Local residents at once were disgusted with things - and happy to be alive. They talked about the crazy things journalists would ask, such as "Why were they storing so much fertilizer there?" When someone responded, "Well, it's April," the "city-slickers" still didn't understand that spring is planting season. Oh, well. On the other hand, residents also recognized that only because the media came into town did the story get out and the much-needed help flow in. At the bakery, locals showed offtheir new clothes they got at the donation center, while talking about the one-room house they were living in... all the while thinking about how they were go- ing to get back to their own home. People talked about the wgn- derful feeling they got when, on Sunday, they attended church together and laughed as Mayor Tommy Muska talked about Zhima's chickens. Yes, they laughed. Because they needed the laughter, even as they cried. Muska, who lost his own home, might have gotten frus- trated as he talked to the media, explaining why people couldn't go to their homes and why he wasn't releasing names of the deceased. He brought residents together with laughter on Sunday, so they could pray, hug each other, and be glad that they were alive. He wagged a finger at the bishop as he said, "God is testing me." Everyone in town is being tested at this point- by circumstances, by volunteers, by the media, by the huge amount of work ahead. On Sunday evening, you could see a wide range of volunteers- from Billy Grahams Rapid Re- sponse teams to the young people who are part of the largest Islamic relief effort, the Disaster Assistance Response Team at a local restau- rant. Everyone was affected and everyone was pitching in to do what they could. It was a wonderful sight to see. As a town comes together, to put itself back together, a few more people will be added to the circle. Because that's what a small community is all about- a close knit place that stretches to include family long moved away- and new friends freshly brought into the mix. They say everything's bigger in Texas. But most things that make it big are small. West, Texas, for instance. The name confuses. Named after a banker and sodbuster, West is in Central Texas, 25 miles north of Waco, where I spent a long time as a news- man. As everyone knows by now, West is small, 2,800 people. That makes the wound it nurses one of unimaginable scope. When I heard of the explosion that did so much damage to West, the first thing I thought of was utterly ironic. I thought of proximity. The assumption about people who live in "the country" is that they go there to be away from other people, to spread out. The tragic irony was that the deaths and destruction attached to the event in West had to do with homes, apart- ments, two schools and a nursing home being too close to the site of a great explosion. Then again, downtown West was se- riously damaged as well, and it wasn't that close. That happens with a concussion some likened to a nuclear blast, a mushroom cloud visible at 100 miles. Back to that matter of closeness: I've observed that it's what makes places special. It's what makes NewYork New York, Chicago Chicago, Boston Boston. Rather than massive and faceless, YO!mG each is in fact a collection of small towns, shoulder to shoulder, packed into distinct blocks, sectors and bor- oughs. West has considerably more elbow room but the same closeness. It is predominated by Czech heri- tage. It is renowned for its kolaches - cream cheese or fruit or sausage - and for its West Fest celebration each Labor Day, when polka bands and beer-bread sandwiches make 100-plus degrees bearable. NowWest is known around the country for something else. For trag- edy. For loss. For questions. Texas is where something of compa- rable magnitude happened once with the very same combustible substance that has caused so much sorrow in West. In 1947 two ships carrying ammo- nium nitrate fertilizer outside the port of Texas City caught fire and exploded, killing 581. How were so many in harm's way? The people of West had no idea what dread loomed down the block. It's unclear to what extent, if any, inspec- tion had provided assurance that the property next door- and in place long before anyone moved nearby- was a ticking time bomb. Such questions are for another day. On this day we remark on neighbors acting as neighbors in the truest sense - rushing to a danger scene as volun- teer fire fighters, helping fish seniors out of a nursing home's rubble. As in Boston on Patriot's Day, out of the worst of scenarios we come to ex- pect the best of people, and they seem to deliver. The phoniest of concerns, it seems to me, is about what becomes of West and, dare one say, its reputation as a quiet and peaceable, even blessed town. Its reputation is secure; its bless- ings, too. It's all in the bonding that often comes with a death in the family, when kin grow closer to make up for the void left by the departed Like many towns its size, West owes its origins to a swatch of railroad track. Without it, and 1-35 streaming its way generations later, it would be a vacant patch of blackland prairie. But through the years, and the gen- erations, it has more than justified its existence with much that is life. In a small town, any loss is a big loss. In this one, the loss is bigger. Longtime Texas newspaperman ]ohn Young lives in Colorado. "have to wonder sometimes how some people reach the conclusions that .they do. To be specific, let's look at those who would say that we'd all have a safer society if only the government had guns. Right now it seems farfetched that anyone would agree to that. But the issue today is comprehensive gun owner registration and smaller clips. That nose under the tent now will easily lead to stricter rules when it is discovered, after another mass murder using legal arms, more restrictions will be necessary. Eventually only the government will have guns - much to the joy of those who think more government leads to a uto- pia. When one looks at statistics it reveals that governments all over the world are by far the most leading cause of 99.9% of deaths by firepower when the popula- tion is disarmed. Now I know plenty of people who own guns. They take them out to go hunting and afterward they are re- turned to a lock safe. Some have merely inherited their arms and wouldn't know even how to load them. Some enjoy hobby shooting and for those who do, I know none of them that have any desire to shoot anyone. One aspect of the concealed weapons course makes it plain that if you pull that trigger you will most likely pay a dear price even if you are defending a life. It's a legal ride - civil or criminal- that you don't want to get on. But do I want to limit anyone's ability to defend themselves? Never! Will a criminal register a weap- on? W'di he use a seven round clip if a 30 round is available? They already have the most important advantage in their favor- the element of surprise. Sup- pose in the Cold War our government in Washington had unilaterally disarmed ourselves of all nuclear weapons. Imag- ine the blackmail and danger we would have experienced from our sworn enemies. Now that same government under the current administration wants the public to do exactly that. Maybe they are not saying it now but they are thinking it; this same administration that sponsored Fast and Furious which abetted the transportation and selling of semi - automatic weapons to drug felons in Mexico so they could murder helpless DISARMED Mexican citizens. And the same administration that most likely was running arms to Syri~in rebels through the Benghazi, Libya, United States embassy extension agency. The hypocrisy awes me. President Obama, after Fast and Furious and the Benghazi affair, has no platform upon which to rave against the NRA (which he did anyway) for its alleged lies and misrep- resentations after the failed anti-gun vote in the Senate April 18. Want more irony? Paul Revere's ride was April 18, 1775. The colonists had stored a huge cache of weapons and powder at Concord and Lexington. The British were coming to disarm the colonists. We know what that attempt led to: The birth of a country. Disarmament will lead to the reverse. LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN SUPPORT OF BENNINGHOFF I have known Chad Benninghoff, candidate for Kyle City Council, for a little over 2 years. In that time, I have seen qualities that would make him a wonderful addition to the Kyle City Council. Chad is a professional military man, currently working in the medical field. He and his wife, Larissa, are loving parents to two boys. Chad was drawn to the medical field by his strong desire to help people. When not working or spending time with his family, Chad spends time volunteering with chil- dren. He is especially passionate about helping children who have lost their parents. As a volunteer, Chad lends an ear to children in need. As a Council member he would listen to the citizens of Kyle about the issues that concern them. He is very approachable and open to all ideas that may benefit the community. His military background will serve him well as a leader for the city. His training allows him to look at prob- lems analytically and reach the best conclusion for all involved. By listen- ing carefully he is able to hear what all stakeholders in an issue are looking for and can make the best interests of the City of Kyle a reality. Michele Christie Kyle, Texas COMMENTS FROM THE WEBSITE "I'm sick of trucks being targeted." - Mike on Trucks in flux "Hoping this does not happen frequently as it did a few years ago." - Cami Frasier on Lehman High School bomb throat "So sad. Praying for West, TexasY My heart is heavy." - Crystal Rios on fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas ",4 light makes much more sense. Just ask the residents (me) about the Plum Creek roundabouts. Maybe pertinent for neighborhood traffic, but for a major thoroughfare, I think not." - Mike Browington on Tx- DOT seeks roundabout at dangerous intersection "Cyndi, this moved me to tears. Well said, and I hope that we are all a bit more aware of these "thugs" that are all around us and prey on our children. Parents teach your children to respect others and not to be so quick to trust what your gut is telling you that you probably shouldn't do. As a mother and a grandmother that has young children and adults I pray for their safety as they go out and make choices that may affect them even coming home at night. It was hard for us to read, but / appreciate your honest and heartfelt response to the out- cry by our community. We love our Kyle Buda and it is scary to know we aren't safe just because we aren't in Austin. Thank you." - LadyReb on "Blame the cdminal" editodal MANAGEMENT BARTON PUBLICATIONS, INC. Publisher Cyndy Slovak-Ba~on NEWSROOM EdRor Cyndy Slovak-Ba~on Sports Repo~er MosesLeoslll Features & Education Editor Kim Hilsenbeck staff Repo~er AndySevilla Community Columnists Sandra Grizzle Pauline Tom Columnists Bartee Haite Glint Younts Will Durst John Young Proofreaders Jane Kirkham OFFICE MANAGER Connie Brewer ADVERTISING Tracy Mack Dioni Gomez ads@haysfreepress,com CIRCULATION/C LASSIFIEDS Suzanne Hallam PRODUCTION Production Mgr. David White Assistant Designer Melinda Helt Distribution Pete Sizemore Contact Us: FAX: 512-268-0262 BUDA 512-295-9760 KYLE 512-268-7862 METRO AUSTIN 512-262-6397 113 W. Center Street Kyle, Texas 78640 I h ! i I !