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Man Recounts Major Destruction After Fertilizer Blast


Mike Sulak is a pharmacist and the owner of West Drug on Main Street. It's about three quarters of a mile from that fertilizer plant. His house is even closer. Speaking from his pharmacy today, he told us about last night. Mr. Sulak was having dinner in nearby Waco when the explosion hit. He headed back toward home to get the keys to open up his drugstore, and found the area around his house cordoned off.

MIKE SULAK: I got a ride on a fire truck, to my house, where I retrieve the keys to the store. We came down here with the firemen and they cleaned out all the bandages and gloves and bottled water, and everything that we thought they might need at triage.

BLOCK: Oh, you give them those supplies from your store.

SULAK: Yes. Yes.

BLOCK: Well, you got into your house to get your keys then.


BLOCK: And that was a quarter-mile from the plant.


BLOCK: OK. Well, tell me what that scene is like so close to that factory.

SULAK: Well, it was all dark there. All the power was out. I had a small flashlight with me. The front door was completely blown in. All the windows on the front of the house were blown in. And what was bad about it, every inch of the ceiling all over the house had collapsed. The roof is still on the house but all the ceiling's on the floor.

BLOCK: Was anybody in your house at the time?


BLOCK: No, lucky thing.


BLOCK: Mr. Sulak, was this something you had worried about before - being so close to this fertilizer plant?

SULAK: No, but they've had small incidents there before; mostly just like anhydrous ammonia escaping. On rare occasions we would get a whiff, but it was seldom. And we were far enough away that it was never strong.

BLOCK: And given what's happened here, that doesn't give you pause about moving back?

SULAK: No, I doubt that the fertilizer plant will be what it was before.

BLOCK: You sound remarkably stoic and upbeat, considering what's going on in your town, Mr. Sulak.

SULAK: All of my family is healthy and safe. And what has been damaged can be repaired.

BLOCK: Mr. Sulak, do you know some of the volunteer firefighters who rushed into this plant, to try to put out the fire before the explosion?

SULAK: I do.

BLOCK: And what can you tell us about them?

SULAK: Well, I talked to one man. The man I talked to was not really a firefighter. He was an EMT, but he was going to help his brother who was firefighter. And the brother apparently was there at - in close proximity to the first explosion. And the belief is that he was killed.

BLOCK: I assume, in a town the size of yours, that pretty much everybody knows everybody.

SULAK: Yes. Yeah, we're hurting for a lot of the people here. We're blessed and we know we are, but we know there's a lot of pain out there.

BLOCK: Well, Mike Sulak, it's good of you to talk to talk to us. Thanks for taking the time and all the best to you.

SULAK: Thank you.

BLOCK: Mike Sulak, speaking with us from West Drug Store which he owns. He lives just a quarter-mile from the site of the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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