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Oso remembers deadly mudslide with prayer, potlucks, but no raft trip

First anniversary of deadly slide will be a somber occasion

The landslide that destroyed dozens of homes and killed 43 men, women and children will be remembered in ways both public and private on Sunday, the first anniversary of the disaster that slammed into a mountain subdivision called Steelhead Haven 60 miles north of Seattle.

When 18 million tons of earth rumbled down the hillside on March 22, 2014, it also swallowed about a mile of State Route 530. The critical byway has been repaired, but it will be closed between the tiny towns of Oso and Darrington Sunday morning.

That's when survivors of the disaster, family members who lost loved ones, first responders who raced to the scene and neighbors who are still grieving will gather at the scene of the devastation.

There will be a moment of silence at 10:37 a.m.

Over the course of the long weekend, there will be prayer ceremonies and potlucks, benefit concerts, a soup social and an open house at the Darrington Fire Department, where a slide show of the disaster and its aftermath will play and a display case filled with artifacts from the slide will be unveiled.

A meeting room at the Darrington Library will be dedicated to librarian Linda McPherson, who was reading a newspaper alongside her husband of 46 years when, in a quick blast of mud, she was killed at the age of 69. Gary McPherson was left injured in a freezing pile of the muck.

But there won't be a $90-a-head raft trip down the Stillaguamish River -- lunch included -- a bit of disaster tourism that outraged members of the still-reeling community.

Pacific Northwest Float Trips had advertised the "Stillaguamish Raft Adventure" as a way to "see the devastation caused by the gigantic Mudslide...View this Natural Disaster from one of our Avon Rafts as you flow silently by this mysterious area that drew National Attention and a visit from the President."

Rafters were promised an opportunity to learn the causes, history, geography and significance of this "strategic movement of an entire mountain," the company's website promised. "Proceeds benefit the survivors of The Oso Mudslide."

But after residents complained that the region was a sacred site, not a tourist attraction, Dave "Capt. Dave" Button, company president, said in an email that the rafting excursions are on indefinite hold.

The mudslide trips "will be revisited AFTER the 1st Anniversary of this Tragedy," Button wrote. "We have generated a lot of interest in Floating thru this area with Pacific Northwest Float Trips AND will address the River Adventure after there is more input from those directly affected."

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