A three hour drive from Houston, just off IH-35, you will find the city of West - a hard working, God fearing, close knit town where one year ago all hell broke loose.
A fire at the West fertilizer plant spread quickly igniting 270 tons of ammonium nitrate. The sheer force of the blast was astonishing, the equivalent of 20,000 pounds of dynamite. The first responders at ground zero, never stood a chance.
15 people died, including 12 volunteer firefighters. Hundreds more were injured. A quarter of the town was in ruins.
Pausing briefly to grieve, the people of West have spent each day of the past 12 months putting their lives and their town back together.
"I told the citizens you don't need to look back. You look back, you fall down," said Tommy Muska, West's Mayor.
Most of the firefighters lost were Muska's lifelong friends.
"They answered that call at 7:29 they were on that site at 7:38 with four trucks and at 7:51 it blew up. That's dedication," said Muska.
"Those men those friends of mine. They did what they were supposed to do. That's the job, the job of a fireman," he added
While he misses them dearly, Muska would rather talk about the 70 brand new homes being built or the 130 that have been fully restored.
"It shows the resilience and the strength and the determination of the Czech American Texan people. We should be a model to the country on how you can pick yourself up, work together and get it done and get it done in a quick and efficient manner."
But with arrival of the disaster's anniversary, it's hard not to look back.
On a street clamoring with fresh construction, not far from where the fertilizer blew, Dave Anderson rolled through in his golf cart reminding his granddaughter of the disaster's cost and the firefighting friends he lost.
"How they give their lives for other people. It was terrible for their wives and kids," said Anderson.
Life long West resident Marvin Cepac works at the funeral home and spent the worst two weeks of his life helping lay the heroes to rest.It was a sacrifice so great he says many here remain haunted.
"Anybody who lays their life down for a town or his country they are the tops. I wish that the deceased would know how much love that they have right now," said Cepac.
A common belief in this town, where sharing a neighbors load is both tradition and second nature.
In the meantime, the Mayor is looking forward floating the idea of building a new fertilizer plant.
"It's a big pill to swallow, but I did bring it up because if its planned right, if its built right and it would be the safest fertilizer plant ever built in the world, it could work," said Muska.