OSO, Wash. -- To mark a statewide moment of silence exactly a week after a massive mudslide slammed this rural town, about 100 firefighters and volunteers in the search for victims filed out of the fire station Saturday and stood before a U.S. flag at half staff.
Among the volunteers with heads bowed was Bret Cunningham, 47, of nearby Camano Island.
He said he thought of the town’s families at that moment, those he has worked beside at the scene they have come to call “the pile.”
He said a simple prayer: “That we continue to find them, hopefully find some alive, that God be with the ones that are grieving and that have survived.”
The Army veteran and father of six has been helping to search the mudslide debris for the last few days, and said he feels he has come to know the victims through the things they lost to the gray mountain muck that still clings to them like wet concrete: family photographs, classical music records and children’s toys.
“You see kids’ stuff and you can’t help but wonder what happened to that child,” he said.
Cunningham said he and other volunteers with a military background thought they were prepared for the tough task of combing the wreckage for bodies.
“We’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan and seen some horrific things, but it’s something else to see this happen to your own community,” he said.
After the moment of silence, he and other volunteers waited in the rain for the chance to return to the search.