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Texas Town Honors Dead From Fertilizer Plant Blast

West, Texas, said goodbye to 14 people, including 10 firefighters and first responders, who were killed in the April 17 explosion of a fertilizer plant that leveled part of the town.

President Obama attended a memorial service on Thursday to console the grieving families. He said the "tragedy has simply revealed who you've always been."

He told the audience of about 10,000 gathered at Baylor University's Ferrell Center in Waco that the country would help the community rebuild.

"No words adequately describe the courage that was displayed on that deadly night," Obama said. "What I can do is offer the love and support and prayers of the nation."

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, urged those watching the memorial to not "forget the courage and the resolve" of the people of West.

Gov. Rick Perry called the first responders killed in the fire and explosion "ordinary individuals blessed with extraordinary courage."

The Associated Press reports:

"A parade of fire trucks and other first responders' vehicles passed through Waco Thursday before a memorial service for first responders. ...

"Family members were escorted into the ceremony on the Baylor University campus. In front were 12 flag-draped caskets. Large photographs were placed in front of each."

About 200 people were also injured in the explosion at the West Fertilizer Co., which contained explosive ammonium nitrate. The exact cause of the fire, however, has yet to be determined.

Obama has ordered the U.S. flag at federal buildings and military facilities in Texas be flown at half-staff Thursday in memory of the victims. He had already planned to be in the state for Thursday's dedication of former President George W. Bush's presidential library at Southern Methodist University.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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