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National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Helps West, Texas

5:03 PM, Apr 22, 2013   |    comments
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Firefighters conduct search and rescue of an apartment destroyed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, April 18, 2013. (Photo: LM Otero, AP)

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- In the seeming unending litany of grief, the White House announced that the President will fly to West, Texas for a memorial service on Thursday.

He will pay tribute to the 14 killed and hundreds injured in a blast last Wednesday at a fertilizer plant.

The needs of the families hit by the blast will extend for years.

So many of us were focused on the Boston bombing last week that this massive explosion perhaps did not get the attention it deserved.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in Emmitsburg is trying to make sure that America also comes together to help this small town in Texas.

The blast had the force of an estimated 25 truck bombs and wiped out one third of West Texas' Fire and EMS Department. Of the 14 killed, 10 were firefighters, and two more were civilians trying to help battle the blaze.

"These families are going to have to go forward without their firefighter, who often is the breadwinner in the family," says Ron Siarnicki, executive director of the National Fallen Firefighters' Foundation. "Those families still have to worry about food on the table, and shoes for the kids, and college and all those things, and it will be a struggle for them."

Like it has at so many other disasters that have cost the lives of rescuers the fallen firefighters foundation rushed in. "The Texas team was on the scene Wednesday evening, and they began support to the families and co-workers, and the department."

The foundation will help set up Thursday's memorial service. It will be a chance to remember the heroes who rush toward danger. "Those firefighters went in to try and buy some time to get people out of their homes," says Siarnicki, "to get people out of their businesses, to get people away from the blast zone."

But the need will go on for decades. Some of the dead firefighters are survived by young children, some of their families saw their homes destroyed, Siarnecki, the former Prince George's Fire Chief says we all need to help. "This is when great things happen in America, when we step up to the plate and do what we can to help."

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