Receive the gift of story

We were going for one thing. We got another. 

I’d just met Mrs. K. It had been a long haul from Alabama to Texas. I had ridden with Jeff to keep him company on his journey to buy Cushman parts from Mr. K. Feeling too old for the hobby now, Mr. K. was cleaning out.

What I expected to see was a lot of old metal and Cushman memorabilia and story-swapping between Jeff and Mr. K. And I got that.

But what I didn’t expect was Mrs. K’s story. 

Two years ago on April 17, 2013, she and Mr. K, having finished a day’s work, put on pajamas and were settling into their recliners in their living room in West, TX. They’d heard sirens earlier. Probably another wreck on the highway, they assumed.

But no. Around 7:45 p.m., totally out of nowhere, their world caved in on top of them. 

Literally. 

Mrs. K said she may have passed out momentarily when the ceiling fell on their heads. She’s still not sure of that part. But once she was lucid again, she remembered thinking, “This is it. And I’ll never know what it was.”

She was wrong. She stayed alive. And she found out what happened.

After the initial explosion had blown out windows and lifted up their roof, Mr. and Mrs. K hurried outside. Their neighborhood street was full of people running here and there. The city of West only holds 2,800 people, but more had already begun gathering, and far more would arrive before all was said and done.

That’s when they found out what happened: The local fertilizer plant two blocks away—West Fertilizer Company—had just exploded. 

Remember hearing and seeing the story on the news? It was only two days after the Boston Marathon bombing.

West, TX, was where it happened. And where we were standing had once been part of the rubble. 

West-Texas-Fertilizer-explosion

April 18, 2013 in West, Texas. Photo by CNN

Mr. and Mrs. K returned inside to quickly gather a few valuables. They were told to leave. And leave quickly.

When they arrived at a hotel, enough blood had pooled on Mr. K for the hotel clerk to urge Mr. K to go to a hospital. But he refused. He knew worse had happened to others. And what could have been fatal to them, had not been.

Ten days later, they defied martial law and snuck back down their road. They had to see their house again. It was bad. But it was repairable.

So now, two years later, the only tangible evidence I saw of the explosion was the photographs that Mrs. K showed me.

And the intangible evidence of her stories. Stories of a night that wasn’t supposed to happen. Stories of survival from a tragedy that 15 people didn’t live through.

I hadn’t come to receive those stories.

We think we know what we’re coming for. But we leave getting more.

Everybody has their own collection of stories. And everybody’s stories are valuable.

We all collect a story along the way. Sometimes it’s a story aching to be told. Sometimes it’s an “oh, by the way” kind of thing.

But however or why ever we hear a story, it’s a gift. It’s to be handled with dignity. And it’s meant to travel back home inside us.

When Jeff finished packing up the Cushman parts (and wow, did he pack it in!), Mr. and Mrs. K pulled a special clock off their wall—one that had sustained the explosion without a scratch—and gave it to him as a gift. He was grateful.

jeff-cushman-west-texas

cushman-clock

But we were even more grateful to come away with a little piece of this family’s history, a glimpse into a season of their lives, a slice of their amazing story.

* * *

Whose story has made an impression on you lately? Let’s talk in the comments.

20 thoughts on “Receive the gift of story

  1. blankJune

    You were only a couple of hours away from me! Your post reminds me of 2Cor 1:4 – God uses our experiences in so many ways, but one way is to bless others. As a believer, our experiences, good or bad are never wasted by God. And we never know when He might use them. Thanks for sharing, Lisa. Next time you’re in Texas give me a shout!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Didn’t know we were so close, June, relatively speaking anyway. 🙂 Texas is a big state. If I’m ever out that way again, maybe I will just look you up!

      Yes, I love how God can redeem our pain, not only for our own good but also for the good of others. It’s one of the huge blessings of being his child.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I know! I didn’t even think about West, Tx, being where that happened. Actually I’m not sure I realized that West, Tx, was the name of a city–I think I assumed two years ago that it happened somewhere in west Texas. Oops. Now I know better and have a face to attach to the event too.

  2. blankValerie

    What a beautiful post. I love to hear the testimonies of what God has done in people’s lives and how they have gotten through hard times. We all carry our own stories of what God has done in our life. Thank you. #Ra Ra

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You’re exactly right, Valerie. We all have our own stories of how God has worked. And we all have our own hopes of how he will continue to work in the future. I’m grateful for what he’s done in the past and what he’s going to do in the future.

  3. blankTiffany

    Wow, Lisa – what an incredible story. We have a family in our community who lost their 13 year old daughter, who we rejoiced was in remission from cancer, but passed in her sleep unexpectedly. As a teacher, I encounter her younger and older siblings at school. For a time, it was like a bomb had gone off in their lives – truly. Nothing ever felt like it would be the same. But the community has rallied and remembered that precious life and though their smiles won’t ever quite be the same, they are returning. God’s purposes are so far reaching it seems pointless to try to understand in the depth of tragedy. We simply wait for Him to rebuild, right?! Thanks for sharing with us today.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Oh, Tiffany. Such a hard story. 🙁 Praying now for that family. I’m glad the community has rallied around them. Even if that won’t “fix” it, it at least helps to come alongside in the pain. We wait for him to rebuild, yes.

  4. blankAlecia Simersky

    I’m always in awe of hearing other people’s stories. Especially surprising ones from people I assume have had an easy life…I know, ha! I remember well the West TX explosion. We were living in Tx at the time. It seemed like the world was just one crazy even after the other. It was good to see how the people rallied around them and helped them rebuild.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I remember thinking that too, Alecia, how the world seemed to be going crazy at that time. It can make us want to retreat into our own little corner and avoid it all. But I’m thankful that many don’t do that. Mrs. K told me that SO many people came to help–they were everywhere. I’m not sure she thought they were all super helpful. ha. But I know she was appreciative of their intention.

  5. blankCeil

    Hi Lisa! I love listening to people’s stories, so don’t stop sharing them!

    We just never know what people have been through in their lives…what an experience. How generous of them to tell you about their living through such a terrible thing. I do remember hearing about this explosion. I am so impressed with their generosity, sharing the clock with your husband. What wonderful people.
    It would be wonderful if we could all be so ready to let go…
    Blessings,
    Ceil

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Ceil–we often have NO idea of what people have gone through. And even among the people we do know, we still don’t know the internal struggles they may have faced in the midst of outward struggles. Gives us more reason to be kinder to everyone!

  6. blankJen Ferguson

    I remember this well, as it is not terribly far (“not terribly far” in Texas terms). It was so devastating and frustrating even now because not much has changed in the regulation of fertilizer plants. What an amazing opportunity you had to visit and hear their story. God works so powerfully through people’s testimonies!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Prior to this, I’m not sure I ever thought about fertilizer plants at all! And probably hadn’t since until last week. 🙁 We all get so consumed with what’s in our own little worlds. So I’m glad we do get to hear other people’s stories to expand us all. Thanks, Jen.

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