West, Texas Rises Up Following Accident

Posted by Dan Keeney

A year ago, DPK Public Relations was called into service to help West Fertilizer communicate in the aftermath of the West, Texas industrial accident. I served as the company’s primary spokesperson and provided crisis PR response and counsel in the days, weeks and months following the accident.

When we do this type of work, it is almost always behind the scenes. The impact on people and reputations isn’t always readily apparent. Sometimes, just articulating caring and compassion in the midst of tragedy can be an end in itself.

For instance, the statement we released on behalf of West Fertilizer owner Donald Adair was published in full or excerpted by media around the world. CNN’s coverage was unusually complementary, including this quote from Martin Savidge:

I also just want to give you some of the statement that was released by the company. We heard from them for the very first time last night. It’s locally owned. I’ve heard statements from companies in aftermath of disaster before, never have I heard one so heartfelt, and it reads in part,

“The selfless sacrifice of the first responders who died trying to protect all of us is something I will never get over. I was devastated to learn that we lost one of our employees in the explosion, he bravely responded to the fire at the facility as a volunteer firefighter. I will never forget his bravery and his sacrifice or that of his colleagues who rushed to trouble. This tragedy will continue to hurt deeply for generations to come.”

That’s Donald Adair, and he is right, it will be felt in this community so much long beyond the — well, after all of us leave here.

Also worth reading is, “Texas town holds no grudge against exploded fertilizer plant owner,” from Reuters.

Crisis public relations relies on authenticity and follow-through. In the case of West Fertilizer, we vowed to do everything we could to help investigators piece together what happened so no other community would ever have to go through this. It was a promise kept and I’m proud of that.

One year later, it is extremely heartening to see the progress being made by the community of West. WFAA TV’s documentary, “Rise Up, West,” does a good job of capturing the impact this event had on the town and how the town responded bravely. Everyone in West can be proud of what they have accomplished and what they’ve preserved.

I have to assume that whoever came up with the theme for the West High School Football Team is a fan of Bruce Springsteen, although I haven’t seen anything that overtly makes the connection to the term, “Rise Up,” and Springsteen’s “My City of Ruins.” The words below apply to West, Texas just as they did to Manhattan after 9/11:

“My City of Ruins”

There is a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door’s thrown open
I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregation’s gone
My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Now the sweet bells of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves,
The boarded up windows,
The empty streets
While my brother’s down on his knees
My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!

Now’s there’s tears on the pillow
Darlin’ where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again?
My city’s in ruins
My city’s in ruins

Now with these hands,
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray Lord
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray for the strength, Lord
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray for the faith, Lord
We pray for your love, Lord
We pray for the lost, Lord
We pray for this world, Lord
We pray for the strength, Lord
We pray for the strength, Lord

Come on
Come on
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014 at 4:08 pm and is filed under Crisis PR, PR Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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