DARRINGTON — The brothers of Steve Hadaway, 53, one of the two people still missing in the Oso mudslide, said today’s visit with President Obama at Oso Community Chapel was much more sincere and comforting than they expected.
“I was worried it was going to be in and out, and kind of a smokescreen, but it definitely was not,” said Frank Hadaway of Puyallup. “He greeted everybody, and talked to every single person. It was pretty unbelievable.”
Frank Hadaway, 51, was joined by his brother, John, 49, also from Puyallup, and a third brother, Bryon, 59, of Concrete.
“This was like a big family today,” said John Hadaway. “He did not miss talking to one single person, and you could tell it wasn’t phony. It was very heartfelt.”
The brothers said Obama entered the church from a side entrance and immediately told people not to get up. He made his way around the room to get to them.
Frank Hadaway said Obama held some of the infants who were there, and kept his warmth and composure even when it looked like one of the babies spit up a little bit on his shoulder.
“I couldn’t even begin to think about doing the job he has, and to spend that kind of time with us was unbelievable,” said John Hadaway, who said the session lasted well over an hour.
Frank Hadaway said it was a comfort not just to meet the president, but to spend time with so many people who are struggling with the same loss.
The Hadaways have an issue: They want their brother found before state Highway 530 is reopened, and they know that’s not the preference of everyone in the valley, particularly because of the way Darrington is now isolated.
But Frank Hadaway said the meeting with Obama did not feel like the right time to bring that up. “Today,” he said. “It was all about family.”
When the March 22 mudslide hit, Steve Hadaway had been installing a satellite dish at the home of Amanda Lennick, who was also killed.
Steve Hadaway was a member of the Abundant Life Church of God of Prophecy in Darrington. The church’s pastor, Jim Alexander, said Obama’s long trip to remote Oso was very meaningful.
“I’m sure it’s a tremendous comfort to a lot of people,” he said. “Anytime you have that personal presence, it adds credibility to what you’re trying to do.”
Related: Remembering the victims.