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Groundbreaking Symbolizes Hope In West One Year Later

WEST, TX (CBSDFW.COM) - With the group West Polka Boys playing, it had all the makings of a reunion. More than 100 West residents and community leaders gathered to break ground on the new 120-bed, 75,000 square foot West Rest Haven nursing home.

Once built, the nursing home will stand larger than before, and will offer new services such as memory care and outpatient therapy.

"It's a great day indeed for West Rest Haven. We get to start fresh," said The President of the nursing home's board, Robert Payne.

Nearly one year ago, the West Fertilizer Company plant exploded, and destroyed the nursing home, which sat about 200 yards away from it.

WEST, TX - APRIL 18: An explosion yesterday at the West Fertilizer Company destroyed the West Rest Haven Nursing Home a block away, shown from the air on April 18, 2013 in West, Texas. According to West Mayor Tommy Muska, around 14 people, including 10 first responders, were killed and more than 150 people were injured when the fertilizer company caught fire and exploded, leaving damaged buildings for blocks in every direction. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Jake Tucker, 87, was inside the nursing home at the time, and was rescued without being hurt. On Friday, his wife Bettye brought him to the ceremony.

"I'm so glad I have him here.  He was fortunate, he was in an end room, an outside room, and it didn't have as much damage as the inside rooms," she said.

Payne credited the center's staff that night. "With God's help and guidance, they along with our off-duty staff, neighbors, the whole community of West, Dr. Smith, and sometimes complete strangers came and led our residents to safety."

Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church in West, John Crowder led attendees in a prayer. "This ground has been for many, many years, a place of healing, a place of care and compassion, and we pray now that you would continue that."

When asked if she thought they'd ever re-build so quickly, Tucker said, "No, I didn't, and to be built here, so near the other place, that's very special too."

For the past year, residents have had to live in other nursing homes around the area, including Todd Ewing's mother. "We're looking for that great day they do re-build, and we get to bring her back home."

West Rest Haven nursing home should open by summer 2014.

"I think West is a town that digs deep and builds strong.  I think today is the start of a very long celebration," said Ewing.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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