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Oso landslide survivor: ‘It's just as fresh as the day it happened'

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Ron Thompson's wood shop is his sanctuary. It's where he finds peace among the power tools and sawdust.

Thompson calls this his "therapy."

"I can just relax here," he said. "Everything else goes away."

Thompson's home was destroyed by the Oso landslide. He and his wife Gail should've been home that morning, but they had gone to buy groceries for a church gathering.

The deadliest landslide in U.S. history lasted just a matter of seconds, but its impact will be felt forever.

When the hillside behind Steelhead Drive gave way three years ago Wednesday, an entire community was wiped off the map. Forty-three of Thompson’s friends and neighbors died, which is why he takes to his wood shop every day.

"It's about hope,” he said. "That's been kind of our word for Oso."

In his shop, Thompson builds wooden signs that he gives away to the community, each one of them has a message of hope, love, happiness, and strength.

"I have to share it. We gotta help our neighborhood. Gotta help our neighbors," he said.

That help extends to the slide's memorial site.

Thompson is a sort of "keeper" of the site. He goes there three or four times a week to tidy it up and occasionally mount another small memorial. His signs mark the precise moment of the disaster and remind people that it still isn't over for many.

"Three years hasn't really healed much," said Thompson. "It's just as fresh as the day it happened."

Thompson has also made sure that each of the 43 people memorialized at the site has a handmade marker with their name engraved.

"I still feel like I can help my neighbors," he said. "It just seems like the right thing to do."

At 69 years old, Thompson is eternally grateful he's able to do this work and has no plans to stop.

Pointing to the massive gouge eaten of the hillside along Steelhead Drive, Thompson said, "as long as this is here, I'll be here."

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