Waco and McLennan County residents deserve congratulations for their assistance to law enforcement officers, emergency workers, visiting members of the press and the victims of the tragedy at Mount Carmel.

Waco has a history of pitching in to help when tragedy strikes. And tragedy struck Sunday morning at the Mount Carmel compound 10 miles east of Waco when four federal agents were killed and 15 wounded while attempting to serve warrants for firearms violations on members of the Branch Davidian religious cult.

The Waco Red Cross Blood Center opened Sunday anticipating a desire by Waco residents to give blood to help persons injured during the shootout. Red Cross Blood Center officials collected 92 units of blood Sunday. Officials said they had a total of 351 people who responded Sunday through Tuesday. In all, 304 units of blood were collected Sunday through Tuesday. Blood Center officials said they normally see from 20 to 25 donors daily.

Tremendous response

“The response has been tremendous and we really appreciate everyone’s help in coming by,” said a Red Cross official. “It’s been really amazing to see the number of people wanting to help out in this situation.” Red Cross officials said they have coordinated their efforts with the local hospitals by supplying them with the blood types they require. They now especially need donors with B-positive and A-negative blood types.

The Waco Red Cross officials also praised the response of many other Central Texans. They said blood donations were up in Killeen, Lampasas and Bryan-College Station.

Practically everyone in Waco and the surrounding area involved in emergency services has pitched in to help with the tragedy. Doctors, nurses, emergency technicians, ambulance drivers, counselors and many others worked long and hard to assist in the emergency.

As the standoff continued, law enforcement personnel and hundreds of visiting members of the press were assisted by McLennan County residents. Residents in the Elk area near the Mount Carmel compound have graciously tolerated and assisted the hundreds of law enforcement officers and press members who suddenly descended in their midst.

Extraordinary effort

Erbie and Betty Necessary were featured in the Wednesday editions for their extraordinary efforts to bring food to the law enforcement officers, firefighters and journalists camped near the Mount Carmel compound. The Necessarys have traveled back and forth collecting donations from super markets, restaurants and businesses and delivering the donations to the people near the compound.

A Killeen police SWAT team member praised the Necessaryis and nearby homeowners for their assistance. “They should be commended,” he said. “They should get a medal of honor.”

The same is true for many hundreds or thousands of other area residents who have offered their assistance. The response of Waco residents to the Mount Carmel emergency is reminiscent of the overwhelming community outpouring that followed the1953 tornado tragedy.

During a press conference Wednesday at the Waco Convention Center, an FBI spokesman went out of his way to praise the “total support of the Waco and McLennan County community” that has been extended to all the visiting law enforcement officers during their attempts to resolve the dangerous standoff at the cult’s heavily fortified compound. Waco and McLennan County residents should be proud of their cooperation and assistance during this time.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part Two appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

Read the accounts of April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.