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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Town of Oso Is Coping with Unimaginable Loss and Understandably Unwanted Attention

Posted by on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Oso Resident Places Flowers on Cross In Memory of the Mudslide Dead
  • Charles Mudede
  • IN MEMORY OF THE DEAD A pastor's wife decorates a cross outside Oso Community Chapel.

Two miles from the huge mudslide that is known to have killed 25 humans (ABC reports another body was located yesterday and that "family members of the unaccounted for are beginning realize their loved ones may remain entombed forever inside a mountain of mud") is a church, the Oso Community Chapel. The pastor of this church is Gary and his wife is Tina. Yesterday, Tina decorated a cross as tall as she is with a variety of flowers. I watched Tina placing each flower (red, blue, yellow) on different parts of the cross. Each bloom was handled with great care, as if it were the fragile soul of those who had been buried in the mud.

"One member of our congregation is missing," said the pastor.

I asked how long he had been in Oso.

"Four years."

I asked where he had moved from: "I'm tired of your questions. I don't even know who you are."

I told him again who I was and who I worked for. "I have said enough."

"Can we talk about your church? Its affiliation?" I asked.

"No," he said. He was not interested and walked away. Tina continued to put more and more flowers on the cross.

I later brought up the pastor's irritation at my questioning to a cameraman working for KIRO. He smiled and said: "Don't take it personally. The people out here are already tired of the press and also, you know, they do live out here. You move to this kind place to get away from everything." Oso is very small. Its one grocery store is no more—it's empty, its sign is falling apart, it has on its main window a poster of a real estate agent and the picture of a young man who went missing last year. A number of houses are slowly returning to nature. There are no McMansions here. No development at the suburban scale. The animals seem happy enough. Cows docilely eat grass by the power lines. One bull appeared to be more curious than aggressive. By look and feel, Oso is working-class, simple, and deeply peaceful.

And now all of this noise. First there was the netherworldly roar of the mudslide:

“We heard this God-awful sound, a roar like I’ve never heard before and never want to hear again...”
And then came the screams of the emergency vehicles, the din of the helicopters, and the racket of the local, national, and international press. To move out here is to precisely move away from this kind of attention. Indeed, as I watched Tina placing flowers on the cross, flowers for the dead and also for their one and only savior—a young man who was killed by Roman authorities some 2000 years ago and is believed by his followers to have been the son of a man who created nothing less than the whole universe—public radio was interviewing scientist after scientist about exactly what we as an informed public needs to know about this region, its hills, its history (going back to the Ice Age), its geologic constitution, and so on and so on. The scrutiny on NPR is intense.

Suddenly, sleepy Oso is being turned this way and that, like the body of some patient under the light of a massive and oppressive lamp. There had been mudslides on that hill five times since 1949, one story said. The New York Times counted more than that:

We need insurance polices like the ones in New Zealand, said another story. We need to look at state rules governing logging rights, say other stories. We need to stop cutting funding for scientific studies, said many, many stories.

Oso may never be the same again.


Comments (30) RSS

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It is kind of callous of the Stranger to inflict Mudede on a place that has suffered so much so recently
Posted by eptified on March 27, 2014 at 10:53 AM · Report this
dnt trust me 2
Oso may never be the same again indeed. Reminds me of the Rockslide remnants I've seen on two occasions in southern Alberta Canada. It happened in 1903 killing almost 100. It's both a sort of memorial and tourist attraction these days.
Posted by dnt trust me on March 27, 2014 at 11:04 AM · Report this
chaseacross 4
"Netherworldly" seems inapprorpriate. Everything about this disaster is this-worldly; it is literally of the earth.

I think our success as a species is demonstrated in exactly how surprised we are when nature conducts business as usual. "What, we don't have that under control, too?"
Posted by chaseacross on March 27, 2014 at 11:20 AM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 5
@3: At first I thought you were being sarcastic. But remember, some of those "locals" were once apartment dwellers who saved up enough to buy the "best" land. You can do the same, or keep pouting.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on March 27, 2014 at 11:25 AM · Report this
Charles made it through that article without mentioning the word "urban" once. Somebody's trying for a Pulitzer!
Posted by albatross2 on March 27, 2014 at 11:28 AM · Report this
very bad homo 7
If you're not there to help, get out of the way and leave them alone.
Posted by very bad homo on March 27, 2014 at 11:29 AM · Report this
Fnarf 8
Good point about the boom in home-building up there. There's been a TON of development, well-hidden from the highway but still there, in the past 15 years -- not just there but all along the highway. There are several housing clusters further up that aren't hidden at all. I believe these are mostly being built by the Bryson family, which owns half the valley. They've manipulated the rules to get them built, too -- this is supposed to be well outside the growth boundary, but land development in Arlington and environs often ignores the rules.

More insurance is a terrible idea; it'll just encourage them to rebuild right in the path of the thing. It's like those goddamn houses in Florida that the feds keep rebuilding after every hurricane.
Posted by Fnarf on March 27, 2014 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 9
Maybe I'm just ethical but the first time someone asked me to stop asking questions after a disaster I'd fucking STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!! But you know, I don't go out of my way to be an asshole.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on March 27, 2014 at 11:49 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 10
Oso was founded as a logging town? Maybe? I don't know. Logging made them, logging un-made them.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on March 27, 2014 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 11
Charles, drive around on 20 to Darrington - they're historically friendly to outsiders up there, so I'm sure they'll answer all your questions.
Posted by Max Solomon on March 27, 2014 at 12:01 PM · Report this
Charles, you're a troll. It's not enough that you're the paid in-house troll at the Stranger, but now you feel impelled to go out and troll disaster survivors. What a piece of work.
Posted by Billy Chav on March 27, 2014 at 12:13 PM · Report this
originalcinner 13
I don't think the media should annoy the hell out of the survivors, but I do think the pastor should "take one for the team" and deal with the media so that everyone else there doesn't have to. He should do something useful, because praying sure ain't it.
Posted by originalcinner on March 27, 2014 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Hernandez 14
@12 - like every journalist covering the event?
Posted by Hernandez on March 27, 2014 at 12:32 PM · Report this
french_desperation 19
I wonder if the whites out in Oso call each other "white" in an insulting manner like in Seattle?
Posted by french_desperation on March 27, 2014 at 1:19 PM · Report this
I agree with #11, Charles. You should go to Darrington. In fact, if you leave right now you'll be there in time to talk to some of the searchers when they come back from the slide area. I'm sure they'd be delighted to get you up to speed.
Posted by Cannabitch on March 27, 2014 at 2:23 PM · Report this
Charles, the pastor is under NO obligation to talk to anyone. The police, the firefighters, maybe, but everyone else can tell you to go to hell and that's just the way it is.

Get over yourself.
Posted by westello on March 27, 2014 at 2:31 PM · Report this
Remember, only The Stranger is allowed to report on the feelings of people at the scene of death and devastation!…

"As they leave, the television crews swarm in, and about 30 members of the group at the end of 59th all raise a middle-finger salute to the television crews. "You'll be missed!" someone shouts."

"Fox News is doing a segment in Glenna's front yard. I more than half think about punching them in the face."
Posted by Chali2Na on March 27, 2014 at 2:38 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 23
@12: by what definition is the pastor of a nearby church a "disaster survivor"? his home wasn't destroyed.
Posted by Max Solomon on March 27, 2014 at 3:17 PM · Report this
Why on earth did you ask the pastor to tell you about his particular religious denomination? Geezus.

And then you say that the area is "simple" and "working-class". What about your neighborhood, is it simple and working-class?

Don't write any more about this, please.
Posted by sarah70 on March 27, 2014 at 4:46 PM · Report this
Yesterday my friend's 7 year old kid was standing at her bus stop about 4 miles from Darrington when a news truck pulled up, stuck a mic in her face, and asked "How do you feel knowing that some children in your class won't be there anymore?" So yeah, the press is not getting a big welcome right now.
Posted by yarnarchy on March 27, 2014 at 8:34 PM · Report this
TheRain 27
Apart from the mudslide, I tend to believe that everything else in this post was made up.
Posted by TheRain on March 27, 2014 at 10:07 PM · Report this
My heartfelt condolences for the people of Oso, and everyone near or around the towns of Arlington and Darrington along the wreckage of State Route # 530. Tragedies like this could have been prevented but weren't, and now look at the devastating losses.
This is a perfect example of why Big Timber should NOT be permitted to do any further clear-cutting of Washington's forests.
Posted by auntie grizelda on March 27, 2014 at 10:50 PM · Report this
To all of you who feel compelled to make light of this situation, criticize my husband (the pastor written about so unfeelingly in this article), or mock the beautiful people of this community - I read this and felt...sorrow.

No one in Oso has escaped being a victim in one way or another during the past days. We are ALL grieving. Those who lost a home grieve (we did not - we have friends who did). Those who lost a friends grieve (one of our members was confined lost yesterday). Those who lost family members grieve (thankfully we did not - but our daughter-in-law has four family members involved in the search and rescue - we pray for their safety). We are grieving. Let us catch our breath.

Taking offense at a man who has barely slept this week, whose phone(s) haven't stopped ringing for days, who has had countless cameras shoved into his face and pointless questions asked repeatedly (causing him to miss phone calls from people who NEED assistance - a two-minute interview caused him to miss eleven calls yesterday afternoon - who feels the weight of responsibility from a community that is looking to him (as well as to any others) to explain WHY this happened and to help them put the pieces of their lives back together - taking offense because he doesn't have time to speak with you? Where is your heart? Where is your compassion?

(And to "originalcinner" - We both (my husband and myself) have been "taking one for the team" since this tragedy occurred (as have most or our community). However, when dealing with the media interferes with actually helping our friends and neighbors - it's time to say "when".

I've spent the evening looking over articles written about our little community. Many of them have brought me to tears. Yours just plain made me sad.

~ Tina Ray
Posted by TRay on March 28, 2014 at 1:50 AM · Report this
Texas10R 33
Mudede should know better than to use a writer's cliché suitable for no better than Fox.

If something can be imagined, it is not "unimaginanable"; if something can be thought, it is not unthinkable.

If you can write without crutches, write on your own creative power.
Posted by Texas10R on March 28, 2014 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Texas10R 34
correction: unimaginable
Imagine that.
Posted by Texas10R on March 28, 2014 at 9:46 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 35
My god Stranger, haven't these people suffered enough without Charles bothering them with inane questions? A hack who has made large amounts of hay writing on how stupid and worthless people who choose to live in rural areas are?

No compassion at all.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on March 28, 2014 at 12:06 PM · Report this
A community suffers extraordinary loss and experiences incredible coming-togetherness to help one another, and the Stranger sends this insufferable prick in to needle the plebs w/ thinly veiled mirth?

The compassionate Left, ladies and gentlemen.

Posted by seatownr on March 28, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this
I don't see where Charles did anything offensive. He didn't make the pastor, or his wife, look bad. He tried a different approach--asking about the congregation--from most questions the press ask.

TRay, I advise you to not follow this thread anymore. The crowd here can be pretty rough, and you've already got a lot on your plate.
Posted by clashfan on March 28, 2014 at 6:59 PM · Report this
Last night I finally put a face to this "journalist". He seemed more like an overly curious tourist - never once identifying himself. Asking intrusive questions. My husband commented on this to me at the time. I assured him that some people just have a morbid curiosity and want to be "where the action is", no matter how tragic or sorrowful. Boy, was I wrong. This went way beyond that.

Thank you for your kind responses (you know who you are).

clashfan - good advice.
Posted by TRay on March 29, 2014 at 8:13 AM · Report this
^could you be any more obvious, or pathetic?
Posted by seatownr on March 30, 2014 at 9:27 AM · Report this

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