Area rallies support for West residents

Rockdale has links to tragic explosion

Rockdale residents rallied with their hearts, prayers and effort to aid the stricken town of West during the past week as Central Texas reels from the devastating fertilizer plant explosion.

There have been almost too many money, clothing and blood donations to count since the explosion last Wednesday night.

Clay Cox, Rockdale High School baseball coach, is a native of West. He returned to his home town the next morning to help.

One of the nine emergency personnel who died at the explosion site was a veteran big-city firefighter with strong Rockdale family ties.

Capt. Kenny “Luckey” Harris, 52, didn’t have to go to the West Fertilizer Co., but he went.

• Firefighter with ties to
Rockdale among those killed
in West explosion. Obituaries,
page 6D.

• RHS Tiger baseball coach,
a native of West talks about
tragedy with Reporter’s Bill
Martin Sports, 1C

OFF- DUTY—Harris lived in West but was a member of a Dallas Fire Department.

A fellow Dallas firefighter, and friend, said Harris rushed to the fertilizer plant when he saw smoke rising because he was worried West’s volunteer fire department might not be safe at a chemical fire.

He died from the concussion when the plant exploded, an impact felt 90 miles away

Of the first 14 persons confirmed dead in West, nine were emergency personnel, five firefighters and four medics.

Harris was the son of Kenneth L. “Kenny” Harris, a well-known musician, retired band director and 1954 graduate of Rockdale High School.

His aunt is Rockdale businesswoman Leanna Applegate. His paternal grandparents were the late Harry G. Harris and Mildred Luckey Harris Baker.

COACH—“Most of my friends and family are safe, however, I have some buddies in urgent care and have already been passed a few names of some brave young men I went to school with who were the first to go in, that didn’t make it,” baseball coach Cox said.

“I spent 13 hours unloading supplies at the (West) Fairgrounds,” Cox said. “There would be semitrucks from stores full of supplies, then a small car with stuff in it.”

Cox said it was astonishing the amount that Texans have given back.

“It is so uplifting to see the support pouring in from around the state,” Cox said.

DONATIONS—Rockdale students and residents dropped off donations at RISD campus offices, RHS athletic office and the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday and Friday.

During that drive, $3,140 in cash, checks and gift cards, along with many supplies, clothes, food items, medical supplies and such were taken up and delivered to West.

Rockdale’s Rotary Club sponsored the Carson and Barnes Circus for two shows on Thursday night at Apache Pass. Proceeds are going to West.

At the Milam County Extension Office in Cameron, donations were taken Thursday and Friday and then given to the McLennan County Extension Office for distribution to the citizens of West.

Milam County Extension Agent Jon Gersbach said the amount of donations that came in during a short amount of time was awesome.

“It was just amazing at the outpouring of support,” Gersbach said.

At one point the front lobby of the extension office in Cameron was full and donations spilled out onto the sidewalk.

Gersbach said that the supplies filled up two trucks and two trailers.

Just about every school district in the area accepted donations to give to the West community, as did some local volunteer fire departments.

BLOOD DRIVE—The RHS student council held a blood drive on Friday in the old gym, collecting 50 units. Student council sponsor Donna Scruggs said so many donors walked in off the street that not all of them could be accommodated and some had to leave before getting to donate.

“ The workers were trying to stay on schedule with the students that had signed up and tried to work in as many community people as possible,” Scruggs said. “I think there were just too many walk-ins at one time and there was no way to accommodate them. We regret that this happened.”

STILL GIVE—Cox said that the town of West is strong, but it will take a long time to recover.

“ I want to make everyone aware that giving is great, it is a long process and they will need help,” Cox said.

At Tuesday night’s Rockdale- Madisonville, RISD passed the hat with $363 going to the Victims of West Explosion Fund. There was also a donation jar at the concession stand.

Monetary donations can be made directly to one of the recovery funds that have been set up, at or http://westdonations.

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