Six days ago my a post on Facebook alerted me to the tragedy that has happened in this state I now call home. Initial reports of a landslide and tragedy began rolling down my feed and across the news. As time has passed and the news gained more speed and the number of those missing steadily climbed. Each morning the news updates have broken into regularly scheduled programming, and I’ve watched as the lead officer on the search team has grown more haggard and weary by the minute.
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Families have begun talking as well. One daughter spoke of her mother, who was babysitting her four month old daughter when the slide hit. Both were lost. Two generations, with one in between were washed away with the thick mud. And this is not the only story of loss. Over the last few days there has been little joy found in the rubble and thick mud that once was the thriving Oso. Entire houses have been demolished, with no recognizable trace that they were once even there.
But there are reminders. Scattered pictures and the history in paper of a person will be found buried beneath the earth. Under a pile of damaged siding, reduced to slivers, may be a solitary shoe. And people are still missing. Portions of homes may be found, identified, but their occupants, their wives and mothers, brothers and sisters, children-are not. And families wait.
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They wait through their candle-lit vigils. They wait through the reports and the search tallies. They wait for some closure. They wait for peace and healing and a hope for tomorrow. They wait.
And I wonder if they wait for answers. I wonder if they know how much of this horrendous tragedy had been predicted. Because the truth is, it was. Fifteen years ago Lynne Rodgers Miller and Daniel J. Miller submitted a report to Noel Gilbrough of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and HDR Engineering that discussed the history of landslides along this path of river, and the likelihood of tragedy in the future. The report includes this:
The evidence was there. The history of previous landslides and catastrophe was present and accounted for. And I wonder if they knew.
Knowledge or not, one fact remains: nothing can replace the loved ones lost and the families that have been shattered. All that is left is the hope in tomorrow and the prayers for those who are still trying to survive. One minute at a time.
Miller, D. & Miller, L.J. Hazel/Gold Basin Landslides: Geomorphic Review Draft Report. M2 Environmental Services. Letter to Noel Gilbrough.
October 18, 1999.