Five years after dozens of people lost their lives in the Oso landslide, community members honored the victims in a remembrance ceremony Friday.
The State Route 530 landslide swept through Oso on March 22, 2014 at 10:37 a.m. It claimed the lives of 43 people and destroyed 49 homes and structures. It was the deadliest landslide in U.S. history.
The overall size of the landslide was 270 million cubic feet and deposited debris that was 30-70 feet deep.
Dane Brunner's sister, Summer, died the landslide. He told those who gathered for the ceremony that the event shaped him into the person he is today. He said he can't believe the landslide happened five years ago - it feels like it was just yesterday.
Though Brunner knows it's difficult, he said it's important to think about the positive side of things. After all, the relationships that have been built are something loved ones who were killed in the landslide would be proud of, he said.
“After five years it's amazing how things haven't really changed in our hearts,” said Tom Pszonka.
Pszonka and his wife lost their daughter, two grandchildren, son-in-law, and their son-in-law’s father in the landslide.
Following the ceremony there was a site blessing, dedication of a memorial mailbox sculpture, and a sign dedication for the new “Oso Slide Memorial Highway,” which includes a 23-mile stretch between Arlington and Darrington.
Seattle artist Louise McDowell created the mailbox sculpture in an effort to recreate the spot that neighbors gathered daily to chat and honor the owners of those mailboxes who perished in the slide. The sculpture, which is titled "It was a Home," is one of the first pieces of the permanent memorial.
“’It was a Home’ is a beautifully simple and striking representation of the community that was lost during the slide,” said Snohomish County Parks, Recreation & Tourism Director, Tom Teigen. “The sculpture will be one of the first things you see when approaching the permanent Slide Memorial just as the actual mailbox cluster was for families who lived there. The sculpture in a powerful way shows the gravity of what was lost; this was a home full of life and love."
“To me, those mailboxes symbolized home,” said survivor Amanda Suddarth. “It might sound silly, but it was comforting seeing them and knowing that after a long day I was home safe with my boys.”
Last year on the anniversary of the slide officials announced a four-acre memorial park is planned at the spot of the slide. The memorial park will pay tribute to the victims and aims to be a place of healing for those impacted by the disaster. It is currently in the design and interpretive phase, according to Snohomish County.
The total cost of the memorial is about $6 million, with about $87,000 raised so far. Broader fundraising efforts will continue in 2019, including a state budget request, grant applications, and a June fundraising dinner.