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March 29, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Pausing to remember the mudslide victims

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Volunteers at the Oso Fire Department bow their heads during a moment of silence at 10:37 a.m. today, a week after the deadly mudslide occurred. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson / The Seattle Times)

OSO, Snohomish County — Under a grim gray sky, more than 100 volunteers in neon vests huddled at the Oso Fire Department to observe a moment of silence at 10:37 this morning, exactly one week after a deadly mudslide devastated a nearby community.

They doffed their baseball caps and bowed their heads as a state trooper and a volunteer stopped traffic to the driveway entrance on state Highway 530.

After about a minute, the caps went back on, the traffic was waved through and the station again became a hive of activity.

“It was so warm and compassionate and humbling,” said Tara Wallen, 38, a bar manager who joined in the moment of silence when she stopped by to drop off $2,086 in cash and checks contributed by Stanwood Eagles club No. 3041, where she works.

“It felt like everyone was tight,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears.

Wallen said she gave the donations to the fire chief, who thanked her and asked if the group had any instructions on how it should be spent.

“I told him, ‘You know better than I do,’ ” she said.

Looking around at the surrounding hills shrouded in mist, Wallen wiped away tears. She grew up in the area, and, like many others, is determined to help the community recover.

“We’ve got to get back to normal,” she said. “Yes, it’s going to be painful and it will take time, but we’ve got to get people back in homes.”

Nearby, volunteer Corey Stinson, 45, waved in a parade of cars and trucks bearing food, chain saws, assorted donations and more volunteers. Gesturing toward the crowd milling around the fire engines, Stinson said they were all volunteers waiting to be taken to the site of slide so they could “work the pile.”

Stinson had been to the site earlier in the week, and will likely be there again many times.

“It’s what you do,” he said. “You’re here. It’s your community.”

In Darrington, Mayor Dan Rankin, Pastor Michael De Luca and members of the fire department stood outside the town’s fire station at precisely the same time to pause and honor the grieving families and rescue workers.

“One week ago today our city changed forever,” Rankin told the media before De Luca, of the First Baptist Church, prayed for the town, the victims and the missing.

De Luca, who was sitting in the barbershop “shooting the breeze” and drinking his morning cup of coffee when news of the slide hit, said he still feels guilty about not going out to the slide in those first days. But, he said, the moment of silence was an opportunity to grieve and remember.

“We need to remember the people that were lost and the families who are left,” he said afterward. “It is the families who are going to be hurting.”

Crews searching for victims in the tangled debris field also halted their work momentarily to honor those lost.

Gov. Jay Inslee had asked people across Washington to pause at 10:37 a.m., the exact time the mudslide hit and killed more than two dozen people last Saturday.

Comments | More in General news, The Blotter | Topics: Darrington, Oso mudslide


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