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Thousands Attend Memorial For Plant Explosion Victims

Apr 25, 2013
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

After attending the Bush library opening, President Obama flew to Waco, Texas. There, he attended a memorial service for the victims of last week's fertilizer plant explosion. Fourteen people were killed in that disaster in the small town of West, 10 of them firefighters, two were paramedics. As NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports, today's service focused on those first responders.

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WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: It was a parade the likes of which Waco has never seen. Thousands of firefighters and EMS personnel in full dress uniform marching in wave after wave for hours, on their way to say goodbye to the 10 firemen and two paramedics who were killed in the blast. Nearly 10,000 people packed Baylor University's basketball arena. At one end, 12 caskets draped in Texas and American flags, a devastating spectacle of red, white and blue reaching from one end to the other.

As the assembled stood at quiet attention, the families of the brave men filed in, some weeping so copiously, firemen assisted them to their seats. There, they, too, stood hugging each other and fighting to regain their composure. Texas Governor Rick Perry praised the men who sacrificed their lives and said they did not die in vain.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: We will never forget what happened here nor forget the sacrifices of those who first responded. God bless you. And through you, may God continue to bless the great state of Texas. Thank you.

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GOODWYN: President Obama and the first lady also paid their respects. The president praised the courage of the men who rushed to the fire.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No words adequately describe the courage that was displayed on that deadly night. What I can do is offer the love and support and prayers of the nation.

GOODWYN: The investigation into the causes of the fire and the explosion is expected to continue for weeks. No matter the conclusions, the families of the brave firefighters and paramedics will never see them come through the front door again. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Waco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.