The writer visits West, Texas, the town where he grew up, and talks to residents who experienced the fertilizer plant explosion that destroyed its surrounding area on April 17, 2013:
“Less than a minute later, he saw a bright flash and heard a deep boom. ‘I thought I was imagining this, but others saw it, too: for a split second, I could see wavy, ripple-y air,’ he says. ‘It was the shockwave. I could see it hover. I could see it come right above the treeline.’ Then he was blown onto his back on the driveway. Out front, Becky was thrown into the grass. And inside, Abby was buried under collapsed drywall. A ceiling fan fell on her, too.
“Jeff doesn’t know how long he was on the ground. When he was able finally to go back to the house days later, he saw what could have been. On the driveway, maybe a foot from where he had been standing, there was chalky residue from where a piece of concrete had landed, before smashing against the back of his house. In his mother Carolyn’s backyard there was a 16-foot length of auger pipe, a foot in diameter, thrust into the back wall, near the roofline. Judging from its path—where it clipped a tree, smashed through a fence, and landed hard enough to gouge a foot-deep gash in Carolyn’s lawn before cartwheeling into her house—it, too, had been headed straight for him.”