President Obama spoke at his second memorial service in one week on Thursday, paying tribute to the 12 first responders who died when a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, exploded last week. The service occurred in a crowded auditorium on the campus of Baylor University in Waco.
“To the families and neighbors grappling with unbearable loss, we are here to say, you are not alone and you’re not forgotten,” said Obama, in a speech emphasizing the sense of community in the town. “We may not all live here in Texas, but we’re neighbors too, we’re Americans too, and we stand with you.”
Hundreds were injured and 14 people were killed in the fire at the plant on April 17. A Democrat-led congressional probe into regulations surrounding such plants has begun, as it was revealed that the location had not received an inspection in nearly three decades.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn introduced the president, and Texas Governor Rick Perry also spoke. Former President George W. Bush, whose presidential library was unveiled earlier that day, did not attend. President Obama, who was also at the unveiling ceremony for the library, told mourners that “all the former presidents in Dallas sent their thoughts and prayers.”
Throughout his five years as president, Obama has attended his fair share of memorial services. Most recently, he consoled the people of Boston last Thursday, following the bombing attack on the Boston Marathon. He has also spoken at services in the aftermath of a number of other violent attacks, including the shootings at Virginia Tech; the movie theater in Aurora, Col.; the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis.; and Tucson, Ariz., where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords nearly lost her life.
In his speech memorializing fallen West, Texas, first responders, Obama evoked the bombing in Boston.
“We remember those in Boston who have been tested, and the wounded whose greatest test lies ahead,” the president said.
He also noted last week’s flooding in the Midwest, saying, “We remain mindful of our fellow Americans in the flooded states to the north, who have endured high waters.”
But the main focus of the president’s speech was on the ways in which residents helped one another in the aftermath of the fertilizer plant explosion, with offers of housing or even just emotional support.
“We give thanks for the courage, and the compassion, and the incredible grace of the people of West,” said Obama.