OSO, Wash. - What do you do when all the questions seem to lead to dead ends? If you’re 12-year-old Kelsey Lee you set out a jar.
“Would you like to donate anything today?” asked the 7th grader seated at a card table as people enter the last gas station between Arlington and Oso.
Kelsey has raised $500 the past two days after leaving her school, where a desk now sits empty belonging to a classmate who is missing.
“We have a lot of counselors in the library,” said Kelsey. “And a lot of my teachers are crying.”
With fewer than 500 people in Oso, nearly everyone knows someone who’s been lost.
Patricia Lee, Kelsey’s mother, is friends with one of the missing and may know others through her work at the gas station counter.
“I’m not seeing half my customers and when I do they’re crying,” she said.
Patricia Lee is not the only one wondering how such a little town could endure such a staggering loss of life.
It’s the kind of question a pastor might be asked at the only church on a 29 mile stretch of highway 530.
“It is a truly difficult question. I don’t know if anyone has the answer,” said Gary Ray, pastor at Oso Community Chapel.
Ray says his 80 member church is ready to help. Donations of cleaning supplies are already stacking up in the basement and a community meeting is planned in the sanctuary for Wednesday evening.
The church too has suffered loss. One of its members is missing and a husband and wife who volunteered with the church’s food bank are among those confirmed dead.
Despite the pain, Rev. Ray says, “There is hope, and God gives us each other to hang on and to push through.”
The answers can wait. Kelsey Lee has her eye on another gas station customer. He walks to her table and opens his wallet.
“Thank you sir,” she smiled.