A long, solemn procession of firefighters from around Central Texas, the state and the U.S. was moving slowly toward Baylor University’s Ferrell Center late Thursday morning, where a memorial service will be held Thursday afternoon for West’s fallen first responders.
Thousands of residents lined up early Thursday morning outside the Ferrell Center while the firefighters assembled for the procession honoring the first responders killed in the massive fertilizer plant explosion on April 17.
The first residents arrived at the Ferrell Center at around 4 a.m. Thursday and by mid-morning 1,000 to 2,000 people were lined up outside.
Fire apparatus from nearly 100 departments, meanwhile, was lined up about a half-mile away.
The memorial service begins at 2 p.m. Thursday.
At 11 a.m. the firefighters started the procession from a staging area on University Parks Drive south of LaSalle Avenue to the center.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, will attend and the president and Perry are scheduled to speak.
Other speakers include Baylor University President Ken Starr and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
After the families and all first responders are seated, the doors will open to the public on a first come, first served basis, Fogelman said.
The doors will close at 1:45 p.m. or when the Ferrell Center reaches capacity, she said.
A limited amount of public parking will be available in lots C and D at the Ferrell Center with access to University Parks Drive from Cottonwood.
Public parking will also be available at Floyd Casey Stadium on S. Valley Mills Drive and shuttles to the center will run starting at 10:00 a.m.
All attendees will go through airport-like security and should bring as few personal items as possible, Fogelman said.
Bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, liquids, firearms, or signs will not be permitted at the Ferrell Center, she said.
Cameras and cell phones are permitted.
The service was organized by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and Texas Line of Duty Death Task Force to remember the firefighters and first responders who died in last week’s tragic explosion in West.