A slight rumble in the distance is all that warned residents
in Oso, Wash., of the impending doom that would befall
their small town of 180 people.
The rumble, which would be picked up on seismographs up
to 170 miles away, was caused by a monumental mound of
mud dislodging itself from a hillside and cascading over
the quaint community that resided in its shadow.
If one slide wasn’t enough, a second smaller side added to
the chaos mere minutes after the first had begun to settle.
The mud wouldn’t settle for hours after the initial slide
Robin Youngblood, a survivor of the slide, recalls how she,
“didn’t see it coming. It hit [us] so fast and the house was
moving.” Youngblood would be the first person that rescue
helicopters pulled from the debris that afternoon.
The mounting horror would only escalate in the hours that
followed as rescuers pulled who they could from the mess
and looked out futilely over the unstable mess that made
the majority of ground rescues nearly impossible.
At the most recent count, 41 have been confirmed dead
with just over a hundred more displaced or affected.
The communities surrounding Oso, however, quickly
rallied together in support of their fallen neighbors. The
community, as the term would be coined, was ‘Oso Strong.’
In the days following the slide, this phrase would inspire
outreach, aid, and fundraising for those who lost their
homes and loved ones.
The local Cabella’s hosted a BBQ, churches rallied to the
shelter and food needs of survivors, and the nearby outlet
mall saw dozens of signs popping up in businesses stating,
“Show our community that we are Oso
Strong. Unite together to help those affected
by the slide here.”
The Stump Bar and Grill in Snohomish began donating
100% of their profit to the effort. In short, the community
would not be crushed by this event but remain resilient in
the face of a seemingly insurmountable task.
The trauma and damage caused by the slide was not only
recognized and supported by the immediate surrounding
community, but President Obama himself toured the slide
zone on April 22, vowing, “I just wanted to let you know
that the country is thinking about all of you, and have
throughout this tragedy. We’re not going anywhere. We’ll
be here as long as it [recovery] takes.”
With the debris nearly 70 feet thick in some places and an
estimated 50 homes destroyed, the road to recovery will be
a long one.
The Red Cross has taken the lead in the relief effort and
has been partnering with local schools and churches
in order to provide for the needs of the now homeless
community. For more information on how to get involved
with their latest relief effort, you can go to http://www.redcross.
Donations and events are also being hosted by the
Salvation Army, United Way, and The Cascade Valley
Hospital Foundation (in support of the closest clinic to
start treating victims) to name a few.
While most of the relief effort simply requires funding
at this stage, it is nearly certain that labor and volunteers
will be needed in the months to come when the rebuilding
Whether you choose to get involved or pursue a relief
effort, the undeniable truth is that the Oso spirit has not
been squashed by this natural disaster. The people and
surrounding communities are not going anywhere without
a fight, and everyday the community proves that it is,
indeed, Oso Strong.
Written by Marlene Pierce