People mourn and pray during a candlelight vigil Thursday night at Assumption… (Ron Jenkins / Associated…)
WEST, Texas -- In the dimly lit sanctuary of Assumption Catholic Church, hundreds gathered here to embrace their friends and family, to cry and to pray for answers just about 24 hours after the tragedy that has left this small East Texas town reeling.
They tried to take stock of what has unfolded here, and tried to search for the clarity that has evaded them thus far.
"Our hearts are hurting, our hearts are broken," said Father Ed Karasek, pastor at the parish. "Our town of West will never be the same, but we will persevere. Our God will see us through this."
On Wednesday night an explosion tore through a fertilizer plant, leveling buildings throughout the town of 2,800. Authorities said at least 11 people were killed.
On Thursday, the multi-denominational vigil included songs and several clergymen offering comforting words and heavenly petitions for support.
"What happened is horrific, but our God is bigger," said the Rev. John Crowder, pastor of the First Baptist Church here.
He offered this prayer: "Our pain is great, but your love is greater. Our sorrow is great, but your love is greater. Our confusion is great, but your love is greater."
For many, the evening was an emotional one, as they quieted their minds to focus on all that had transpired in a small town they love.
"This is my home," said Kelly Nelson, 29, who felt the blast Wednesday night and whose grandmother had to evacuated from her home. She also knew some of those who were killed or injured.
"This is my community, the people I love," she added. "Everyone has been affected by this.
"The people who were lost, these are people I know, people I see on a daily basis. Knowing that I'm going to never see these people on earth again is very difficult for me to handle."
During the vigil, Father Karasek invited two other priests from the parish to come light candles using the Easter candle -- "the light of Christ," he called it.
The priests walked down the center aisle of the church, lighting candles held by people in the pews, who in turn lit the candles held by those around them. The lights overhead were dimmed until the amber glow of hundreds of small flames illuminated the sanctuary.
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