By: Sarah Snyder
On February 18th. 2008, an explosion threatened Big Spring's future. West Texans watched in awe as the images surfaced of the Big Spring Refinery up in flames.
On Wednesday, the community came together to celebrate the 80th birthday of the refinery and honor the hard work it took to get it back up and running.
"It was traumatic," Alon Refinery CEO Jeff Morris, said. "It was one of the most difficult situations that occurred in the 80 years of this plant, but everyone responded as you would expect everyone would do in West Texas."
And respond they did. No lives were lost in the blast. And city leaders and refinery officials say they couldn't be more proud of the workers.
"There's a new appreciation for the employees here," Big Spring Mayor Russ McEwen, said. "These people were running towards an explosion, toward a fire when other people's tendency would be to run away."
And one year later, those same responders are being honored as heroes of the refinery.
"All of a sudden you have that explosion and there's an immediate question of will they repair it? Will they bring it back to life?" Mayor McEwen said.
But they did. Workers had the operation at half capacity by April, and by September things were back to normal.
"There was times we had over 1,500 people working day and night here at the plant to rebuild it," Morris said. "And you don't get 1,500 people from West Texas, they came from all over the country to help us."
Officials say as they mark the 80th birthday, they've realized their impact on the community.
"It's part of who we are," Mayor McEwen said. "This refinery almost defines Big Spring."
"It's one more step in this long journey supporting Big Spring and supporting West Texas," Morris said.