WACO, Texas — President Obama consoled a rural Texas community rocked by a deadly fertilizer plant explosion, telling mourners Thursday they are not alone in their grief and they will have the nation’s support to rebuild from the devastation.
‘‘This small town’s family is bigger now,’’ Obama said during a memorial service at Baylor University for victims of last week’s explosion in nearby West, Texas, that killed 14 and injured 200. Nearly 10,000 met to remember first responders killed in the blast, a crowd more than triple the size of West’s population of 2,700.
‘‘To the families, the neighbors grappling with unbearable loss, we are here to say you are not alone. You are not forgotten,’’ Obama said. ‘‘We may not all live here in Texas, but we’re neighbors too. We’re Americans too, and we stand with you.’’
The April 17 explosion left a crater more than 90 feet wide and damaged dozens of buildings. The Insurance Council of Texas estimates it caused more than $100 million in damage, and crews sifted the rubble for clues to the cause of the blast or whether foul play was involved.
The blast came 20 minutes after a fire was reported at West Fertilizer. Ten of those killed were first responders.
The memorial service honored those first responders and two civilians who tried to fight the fire and were posthumously named volunteer first responders. Among the dead were brothers Douglas and Robert Snokhous, West High School graduates who volunteered together for the town’s fire department for about 13 years.
The president spoke for 16 minutes, quoting Scripture and lauding the men whose flag-draped coffins laid before him.
Both the president and first lady Michelle Obama wiped away a tear as bagpipes sounded ‘‘Amazing Grace.’’
Barbara Bush brushes off idea of son Jeb for president
WASHINGTON — Amid the celebration surrounding the opening of son George W. Bush’s presidential library Thursday, former first lady Barbara Bush brushed aside talk of a Jeb Bush run for the White House in 2016.
In in an interview from Dallas on NBC’s ‘‘Today’’ show, Mrs. Bush was asked if she thought that Jeb, a former Florida governor, should seek the presidency.
‘‘He’s by far the best qualified man,’’ she said, ‘‘but no.’’
‘‘We’ve had enough Bushes,’’ she said. On Wednesday, former President George W. Bush said he thought Jeb should run.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS