On Wednesday night, a fertilizer plant exploded in the town of West in north-central Texas, killing at least 12 and injuring at least 160 people. The blast was so strong that it caused an earthquake-like tremor and blew out windows, left the plant a pile of metal and debris and destroyed or damaged scores of houses, apartments, a middle school and a nursing home.
Some 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia had been stored on the fertilizer plant’s site and the blast could well have released toxic fumes into the air. On Thursday, the skies over West remained gray and full of smoke.
West has a population of around 2,800, so it is likely that every resident knows someone who was affected. Gov. Rick Perry has declared the area a disaster zone; President Obama has said that the federal government will offer any help needed.
“Right now we have a tremendous amount of injuries,”says D.L. Wilson, a state trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety, in the New York Times. The destruction wreaked is comparable, he added, to that of “Iraq war scenes and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, an act of terrorism using explosives made from fertilizer.”
While there is no evidence of criminal activity, law enforcement officials are still treating the blast as a crime scene. Safety concerns have been raised due to the industrial chemicals stored at the facility, which was last inspected 28 years ago and found to have five “serious” violations (for which it was fined $30).
Tragic Events: How To Respond?
The blast at the West fertilizer plant was yet another terrifying event in a week that has seen two bombs detonated at Monday’s Boston Marathon and letters said to contain the deadly poison ricin sent to President Obama and Mississippi Senator Robert Wicker.
Boston is now on lockdown as police hunt for 19- year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of Cambridge, Massachusetts. His older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was fatally injured on Friday during a police chase after explosive devices were thrown from a car that had been hijacked from the MIT campus. Police have confirmed that Sean Collier, an MIT police officer, was killed overnight and another officer injured.
Amid all this, it is hardly surprising that people might feel panicked or even paranoid. How can the finish line of a major marathon go from being a site of triumph to a crime scene?
Here are some suggestions for responding pro-actively and moving forward after the unspeakable has happened.
1) Panicking Does Your Health No Favors
After a stressful event, panic symptoms can increase steadily for weeks afterward, according to researchers at Brown University. These symptoms can accrue and even contribute to a full-fledged panic attack in which a person may hyperventilate, tremble and experience an increase in their heart rate.
Untreated panic attacks can lead to depression, developing phobias and avoidance of social situations — panicking is not at all to your health’s benefit.
2) Help Those Who Now Really, Really Need It
Reaching out to others: we saw people doing this in Boston after the explosion, running not away but directly towards those injured. To help those who’ve been affected by the explosion at the West fertilizer plant, you can donate to the American Red Cross via the Donate Funds page on their website.
Victims are also in need of non-perishable items such as latex gloves, diapers, wipes, toilet paper, bottled water, blankets, clothes, shoes and children’s toys and food banks are accepting donations; Kens5.com news has more information.
3) Don’t Give In To Terrorists
On Thursday, in his speech at an interfaith service in Boston, President Obama referred to the attackers as “these small stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build.” Acts of terrorism and violence are committed with the intent of creating panic and fear, to make us terrified of leaving our own living rooms and living our lives. But more than ever, we need to keep on doing this.
4) Be Knowledgeable About What’s Going On
Before teaching a class on Roman history on Friday morning, I was talking with students about what happened this week. One person had no idea about the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas but talked about the anger in the Indian community about how the name of missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi was repeatedly, and erroneously, mentioned on social media in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing.
The discussion made me think about how there’s been just too much going on to follow it all, but also about how important it is to try, to get the facts straight, to search out creditable news sources and be wary of rumors; to sift through and assess all that’s being said with care and certainly not to spread any misinformation — and thereby to contribute to panic.
5) Be Pro-Active and Make Change From Tragedy
The public’s response to the bombings at the Boston Marathon — people have opened their home for runners and spectators — has been without a doubt simply heartwarming.
Yes, terrible tragedies have happened this week. But as Obama said in his speech, “We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again. You will run again.”
While acknowledging our fear yet carrying on, we can create something positive and powerful out of tragedy.
What has been your response amid the traumatic events of this past week?
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