ABBOTT, Texas - Just five miles north of the plant explosion in the small town of West, there is an even tinier town of Abbott and their volunteer fire department. And just like in West, they are mourning here.
Two of their own firefighters died trying to help their next door neighbors.
“All I can say is two good men, and they done something that a lot of people wouldn’t do,” Abbott Mayor Harry Nors said.
That night five Abbott firefighters were in West for training. When the fire erupted, three rushed back to the station to get the trucks and other equipment.
Nors said the two that stayed behind to fight the fire died.
“You just got to take it with a grain of salt and keep moving. If you quit, you will never get it out of your mind,” Nors said when discussing how the community will move forward.
Jerry Chapman and Cyrus Reed were the heroes who lost their lives. Chapman’s roommate, Troy Moderzinsky, had a hard time holding back tears.
“All I know is he was trying to help me and I lost a very good friend,” Moderzinsky said.
Abbott volunteer fireman Russell Strickland said Chapman was his best friend.
“Jerry never tried to be a hero, but he always wanted to help,” Strickland said.
Strickland said, when he learned his friend did not make it, he went to tell Chapman’s parents.
“The lump that builds up in your throat when you have to tell someone that information… is just…I mean about the only words you can say in that situation is ‘I’m sorry,’” Strickland said.
Another firefighter close to the Abbott community was also lost that night in West. Perry Calvin was a member of the Mertens Volunteer Department, but trained with Abbott. He was with them that night he died on the front lines.
Nors said that he was one of the original volunteer firefighters in Abbott. He helped start the squad 30 years ago, and they never lost a life until Wednesday night.
“It’s a dangerous job, but somebody’s got to do it,” Nors said.