Last week, a blast at a fertilizer plant a couple miles from the store killed about 14 people and injured more than 150. The explosion at the plant has local car dealers assessing the damage to their stores, as well as injuries and losses to the community. They are open for business, but the real work consists of rolling up their sleeves to help the town’s recovery effort.
Besides causing dozens of deaths and injuries, the explosion destroyed dozens of homes and businesses, according to published reports. Reports say the blast shook the ground with the force of a magnitude-2.1 earthquake.
At Sykora Family Ford, some employees working late heard and felt the impact of the blast, said Ronnie Sykora, general manager. Sykora Family Ford is about 2 miles south of the plant.
The dealership did not sustain any damage, and no one was injured, he said. Annette Sykora was on the national version of the Car Pro Show last Saturday. She is our Ford Dealer in the Lubbock market.
The small, rural town of West sits about 10 miles north of Waco. West has a population of about 2,500 to 2,800 people. Most residents know one another.
“It’s a very, very tight-knit town of German-Czech heritage steeped in tradition and family,” said Annette Sykora, whose in-laws own Sykora Family Ford. “This is the kind of town where there’s a fundraiser every weekend and everyone attends and gives generously.”
That means most of those presumed missing and dead “are very close family, friends and classmates,” she said.
Annette Sykora, the 2008 chairwoman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, is dealer principal of Smith South Plains in Levelland, Texas. She left Levelland around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to drive most of the night to her in-law’s store in West.
Her brother-in-law Ronnie Sykora is an ordained Catholic deacon, she said. He is offering grief counseling to fellow residents. “The community is pretty devastated,” he said.
Soon after the blasts, Sykora Family Ford went on social media to let residents know they could use the dealership as a meeting place, Annette Sykora said. The store is about 1.5 miles northwest of the town’s community center where a triage had been set up. She said about 30 people came to the store for respite last night.
Thursday, the dealership moved all the new vehicles out of its showroom. It has set up tables and chairs to accept donations of water bottles, blankets, canned food and money to help those impacted by the blast.
“It’s beginning to look a little bit like a gathering point on the showroom floor,” Annette Sykora said.
Sykora Family Ford is doing some repair work today on vehicles damaged in the blast, Annette Sykora said, and it is offering customers whose cars are damaged or inaccessible because of the explosion the chance to get a used car on loan, Sykora said.
If you would like to contribute to the victims of the tragedy, go to www.pointwestbank.com.