President Obama at the West, Texas memorial service

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

President Obama paid tribute to first responders, many of whom were volunteer firefighters, at a memorial service to the victims of the Texas fertilizer plant blast that killed 14 people on April 17.

Transcript of prepared Remarks by the President at Memorial Service — Waco, TX (excerpt):

Most of the people in West know everybody in West.  Many
of you are probably descended from those first settlers — hardy
immigrants who crossed an ocean and kept on going.  So for you, there’s
no such thing as a stranger.  When someone is in need, you reach out to
them and you support them, and you do what it takes to help them carry
on.

That’s what happened last Wednesday, when a fire alarm
sounded across a quiet Texas evening.  As we’ve heard, the call went out
to volunteers — not professionals — people who just love to serve. 
People who want to help their neighbors.  A call went out to farmers and
car salesmen; and welders and funeral home directors; the city
secretary and the mayor.  It went out to folks who are tough enough and
selfless enough to put in a full day’s work and then be ready for more. 

And together, you answered the call.  You dropped your
schoolwork, left your families, jumped in fire trucks, and rushed to the
flames.  And when you got to the scene, you forgot fear and you fought
that blaze as hard as you could, knowing the danger, buying time so
others could escape.  And then, about 20 minutes after the first alarm,
the earth shook, and the sky went dark — and West changed forever.

Today our prayers are with the families of all who we’ve
lost — the proud sons and daughters of West whose memories will live on
in our hearts.  Parents who loved their kids, and leaders who served
their communities.  They were young and old, from different backgrounds
and different walks of life.  A few were just going about their
business.  An awful lot ran towards the scene of disaster trying to
help.  One was described as the kind of guy whose phone was always
ringing with folks in need of help — help he always provided.  That’s
just who these folks were.

Our thoughts are with those who face a long road — the
wounded, the heartbroken, the families who lost their homes and
possessions in an instant.  They’re going to need their friends in West,
but they’re also going to need their friends in Texas, and their
friends all across this country.  They’ll still need you to answer that
call.  They will need those things that are lasting and true.  For, as
Scripture teaches us, “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is
born for adversity.”

* * *

Complete strangers drove from hundreds of miles to donate
supplies.  Firefighters from surrounding communities manned the stations
so surviving volunteers could recover from their wounds.  Right here at
Baylor, students stood in line for hours to give blood.  And a nearby
school district opened its doors to the students who can’t go back to
their classrooms, putting welcome signs on lockers and in the hallways.

So that's the thing about this tragedy.  This small town’s
family is bigger now.  It extends beyond the boundaries of West.  And
in the days ahead, this love and support will be more important than
ever, because there will be moments of doubt and pain and the temptation
to wonder how this community will ever fully recover.  And the families
who have lost such remarkable men of the sort that we saw in that
video, there are going to be times where they simply don't understand
how this could have happened. 

 But today I see in the people of West, in your eyes, that
what makes West special isn't going to go away.  And instead of
changing who you are, this tragedy has simply revealed who you’ve always
been.

* * *

Going forward, it’s not just your town that needs your
courage and your love and your faith.  America does, too.  We need towns
where if you don’t know what your kids are up to, then chances are your
neighbors do too, and they'll tell on those kids in a second. 
(Laughter.)  America needs towns that holds fundraisers to help folks
pay the medical bills and then take the time to drop off a home-cooked
meal, because they know a family is under stress.  America needs
communities where there’s always somebody to call if your car gets stuck
or your house gets flooded.  We need people who so love their neighbors
as themselves that they’re willing to lay down their lives for them.

America needs towns like West.  (Applause.)  That’s what
makes this country great, is towns like West.  “For you, O God, have
tested us; you have tried us.  We went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”

Short full video of remarks.

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