Local chaplains offer prayers, counseling to West, TX residents - | WBTV Charlotte

Local chaplains offer prayers, counseling to West, TX residents

West, T.X. -

Dozens of volunteers from Charlotte are in West, TX helping survivors and first responders cope with the aftermath of that massive plant explosion.

It's a group of chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA).

On the ground in the tiny town nearly a week, veteran chaplin Chuck Bender said the task before him and the other chaplains with the Rapid Response team is daunting.

"It's all this chaos and then what you try to do is control the chaos," he said. "They had this explosion and it just took them to their knees. They're just devastated because it is a small town. Everybody knows everybody. And so somebody knows somebody, that knew somebody."

The pain especially deep this time around for Bender. A retired fire captain, he spent more than 30 years as one of Los Angeles' bravest.

"We're trained not to show our emotions or anything," he said. "So when something like this happens it's very hard. In this case, why it's so different -- they lost their entire fire department."

The thought of that is enough to take your breath away, he said.

"They're now manned by different fire departments throughout the counties here," said Bender. "And they're stepping up and manning the fire station."

But it was the story of one volunteer firefighter in particular that really hit home.

"Pulled up on the fire, watched the explosion watched his fellow firefighters die in the explosion," he said.  

As he helps that young man and so many others cope, Bender offered a simple plea.

"People of faith, we just want you to pray for us and especially the people of West, Texas."

Bender says they will be leaving Sunday, but another team is going to take their place.

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