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West, Texas: Faces and places

Published 9:42 PM ET, Tue April 23, 2013
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Emil "Sonny" Fridel, 90, surrounds himself with memories of his late wife, Pearl -- including the oils, china plates and dolls whose faces she painted. Even after she died, he frequented the West Rest Haven nursing home where she spent her last days. He wanted to help the residents there the night of the fertilizer explosion. Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images for CNN
There's a touch of the Wild West in West. Witness the pickup of the town artist, Bobby Allen. The steer horns that peek out of the back will become his next canvas. Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images for CNN
Outsiders have responded to the disaster in West. The fair and rodeo grounds, site of the annual Westfest celebrating the town's Czech heritage, is the hub for donations from near and far. Separate from the food and the stacks of bottled water are clothes, toiletries, dishes, books, diapers, toys -- you name it. Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images for CNN
Edward Havel's colorful and clutter-filled Czech Point Collectibles & Antiques is a gathering place for West residents, where coffee fuels the conversation and pastries from the nearby Village Bakery soothe the soul. Havel brews 12 pots a day. Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images for CNN
Many stores in town bear the Czech greeting "Vitame Vas." The first settlers came to the area decades before West was formally established in 1882. The railroad brought outsiders, including Czech immigrants who in many ways still define the place. Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images for CNN
Petr Gandalovic, the Czech Republic ambassador to the United States, came to West to offer condolences on behalf of his country. He says the town's disaster is the No.1 news story there. Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images for CNN
Edward Havel's Czech Point is a collection of garage-sale finds, auction treasures and good old American kitsch. Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images for CNN
Folks in West don't know what to make of all the media, like this scrum at City Hall. Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images for CNN
Donna's House of Flowers is closed, and a note on the door explains the tragic reason: Her husband and brother-in-law, both volunteer firefighters, died in the explosion. Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images for CNN