After finishing his junior year at UNC, Kelvin Anthony returned last week to his hometown of West, Texas — only to find it completely different from the town in which he grew up.
The small town of West, population 2,849, was the site of a fertilizer plant explosion last month that killed as many as 15 people and destroyed more than 150 local buildings, including the home where Anthony’s family lived.
HOW TO DONATE
To donate to the Anthony family, view their support page here: http://bit.ly/Y6opUF
Nearly all of the Anthonys’ possessions were lost in the explosion, leaving his family without a car and with only the clothes on their backs.
“Our house was in the 1,200-yard radius of the blast,” Anthony said.
He added that his mom and younger sister were 200 yards away when the explosion occurred but did not sustain any serious injuries.
The devastating loss has provoked a tremendous amount of support from the UNC community, including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., of which Anthony is a member.
Keenan Harrell, a UNC senior and incoming vice president of the fraternity, helped plan a benefit night earlier this month at Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. The restaurant agreed to donate a portion of the night’s proceeds to Anthony and his family to help them rebuild and recover.
He added that the benefit night was a huge success — the fundraiser had to stop an hour early because Lime was running out of food, he said.
“When a fellow Tar Heel is in need, it was good to see the community’s support,” Harnell said.
Andrea Alonso, also a UNC senior and Anthony’s girlfriend, helped Kappa Alpha Psi plan the event and said the line was out the door for most of the night.
Although Alonso said she is not sure if another benefit night will be held in the fall, she said a donation website has been set up and will run until the end of the month.
As of Tuesday afternoon, total donations had reached $4,536.
Despite the tragedy the small community has experienced, Anthony said its members are still tightly knit.
“The town is very different now. We’re strong, we’re working to get through it,” he said.
Anthony and his family currently reside in temporary housing ten minutes outside of West and are using a rental car.
They are looking for a more permanent residence until their house can be bulldozed and rebuilt, he said.
“I only go home like twice a year, and not being able to go to my room and lie in my bed … It’s very surreal,” he said.
Alonso said it’s hard for her to imagine experiencing the traumatic losses that Anthony and his family have.
“He’ll never have a home there. The house he grew up in will never be there. He’ll never be able to go back in it.” Alonso said.
“It really just gives us all an opportunity to be thankful for what we have.”
Contact the desk editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.