For the past year, I’ve written countless drafts in nearly every imaginable format from every possible angle I could think of to relate my feelings on the events of last March. I’ve lost sleep over stories I could tell, how I could conceivably justify that simply “being there” could ever be enough, tear-stained faces of the living, and the names of the dead. I looked for ways I could connect the twisted mayhem and uncertainty we all felt with some kind of deeper moral – hope, God, community?
But none of it was enough. How could it be?
Nothing I could write could ever do justice to the bravery, the heartache, or the self-sacrifice demonstrated by those tough men and women who worked tirelessly to restore some level of normalcy to our community, those Loggers. I was there, sure enough, but didn’t feel comfortable counting myself among the ranks of those intrepid first responders who dug people out; nor could I amount to anything more than a grateful beneficiary to the armada of moms and grandmas who made the Community Center kitchen their permanent headquarters; I was but an extra pair of hands, a witness to the other-worldly generosity of business owners, corporations, and volunteers who donated—without question—their time, talents, resources, money, and food to help piece together a heartbroken town; I was just an ear to the silent workings of high school kids, teachers, pastors, dentists, mechanics, retail workers, and people who didn’t even know us but just wanted to help. Compared to the tireless dedication of which I could only stand in reverent awe, my small efforts were just a drop in a bucket.
Undoubtedly, there are others that can write and are writing in memoriam of those tragic events, and how a town banded together and overcame them, probably better than what I can write. I’m not so bold as to speak for my friends and family at home; I can only tell you what I’ve learned in the twelve months following the mudslide.
Blood might run thicker than Water, but Mud is thicker than Blood.
During that first week in late March, my family grew exponentially! And though it shouldn’t take a tragedy like this for us all to treat one another with the dignity and respect that I know I was given, I feel totally at-home when I say that was with family wherever I went: from the clay mounds and swamps towering over 530, to the makeshift relief center we had up in the middle school, to even the front porch of the family that just needed a hand moving a heavy load. All I had to do was take one look at the mud on someone’s boots to know that he was my brother, that she was my sister.
Everyone Grieves in Their Own Way.
And there are folks still grieving. I read about the negative response to river tours were being offered not long after the slide to those wishing to understand just want kind of destruction laid waste to that neighborhood. Sure, there will always be a speck of tarnish on any noble cause in which money is involved. I know how sacred that mile-and-a-half stretch of road has become for us all. I know there may be books sold, documentaries filmed, and blog posts (like this one) published all with varying degrees of self-servitude. There will always be someone looking to profit as a result of someone else’s misfortunes, just as often as there are those who will put those resources to good use; but for those of us who are honestly seeking relief, closure, the ability to move on, let’s do it together. You tell me your story, I’ll tell you mine.
It’s a simple word, but ultimately this is what it all comes down to. In the crazy maelstrom of loss, suffering, pain, and confusion that life can sometimes be, how will we live? Do we forget, do we dwell, do we try to find somewhere in between? Maybe we don’t have a choice in that regard, but I do believe that we all have something to be grateful for, however small. We can be grateful for the memory of those who have crossed over just as we can be grateful every day for the opportunity to make future memories. I know I have been changed by the events of last March, even shaped by them, to a degree. More importantly, I know it’s in my power to be a better man for it, or at least try.
We all have scars, demons that we must live with. But I think life was designed for us to enjoy. So, on this anniversary of the Oso mudslide, let us reflect and do honor to those whose lives were cut short, but also let us laugh. Let us live, and be the best sort of people that tragedy has proven we can be when we need to. If we have no strength left for ourselves, then we must try to be a strength to others.
That’s what you do in a family.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the events surrounding the mudslide that devastated my hometown, The Seattle P.I. has posted a brief description as well as some interactive photos of the work that has been done in the 12 months following the slide. I want to express my gratitude to all the people who have worked so hard to restore that site. Go Loggers!