On March 22, 2014, at 10:37 a.m., the side of the hill above the #Stillaguamish River gave way suddenly. It crashed into the river, scooped up the river’s water and became a mud tidal wave that crashed against the far shore and swept away the lives of 43 people and numerous wildlife and domestic animals. The wide spot that had once held the town of Hazel, Washington and more recently had been known as the Steelhead Community had vanished under tons of earth within minutes. Friends and family had been lost. The community of #Darrington devastated.
To make matters worse, the major artery between Darrington, Washington and “down below”–all points to the west of Darrington–had been severed. It would be weeks before traffic could resume use of Highway 530.
For all intents and purposes, the small town of Darrington was isolated. Yet, in this small town everyone from Cub Scouts to one hundred school-age young people to Senior citizens rallied to create the infrastructure necessary to field, outfit and feed multiple volunteer teams of local people dispatched to the mudslide. (Local volunteers arrived minutes after the slide hit and though most of them had no prior rescue experience, they were the leading edge of the rescue efforts.) A road was punched through to reach the far edges of the slide. Chainsaws growled, heavy equipment grumbled, people called to each other. As the days piled one on top of the other, young people stocked food banks, elders cooked, some people took care of the home bound, others took care of those affected physically and emotionally, cots were set up, information streams established, and still others made sure that supplies kept coming in for the teams and for the town.
The byword was ‘hope”. Every where you looked yellow ribbons spelled out that brave word: #hope. We each became a candle that glowed in that great darkness. Together, we lit the way for each other, and for our town.
During those days and weeks, I learned what made Darrington such a special place. I saw people drag in to check out from their volunteer positions after nine at night and saw those same people back in front of me to check in for work at six the next morning–day after weary, heartbreaking day. People stopped in the middle of the store, in the middle of the street, and gave support and encouragement to each other; hugged each other. We had each others’ backs.
Darrington still epitomizes the word “hope” to me. We still have hope. I think this town lives and breathes hope. Now, it is the hope that we continue our healing as the first anniversary of the day when the mountain fell approaches.
Be kind to one another. Hope lives in each of us. We can heal each other, and ourselves. I send a hug to each and every one of you.
Candle photo courtesy of geralt, all-free-downloads.com Other photos courtesy Deva Walksfar.