ARLINGTON — On a whim, Sophie Logan wrote an email to the White House.
It was early April. Logan, 22, wanted to thank President Barack Obama for his plan to visit Oso after the fatal mudslide.
If the president was going to her hometown, Arlington, she wanted him to know a good place to eat, she said.
Logan urged Obama to try the jumbo prawns in rhubarb-strawberry sauce from the Bistro San Martin downtown.
“Usually people need a reservation to get in, but I imagine you guys shouldn’t have much trouble,” she wrote.
Logan graduated from Arlington High School in 2009. She recently earned her bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Western Washington University, and is living in Bellingham, working as a freelance editor and writing a fantasy novel.
Her mother, Heather Logan, works for Cascade Valley Hospital, and her father, Sid Logan, works for the Arlington School District. Younger sister Claire is studying biology at Whitman College.
Logan started writing when she was five. Her first story involved a mermaid, a fish, a shark who played football, and a love triangle.
On March 22, she was waiting for her sister to arrive in Bellingham. Claire Logan recently turned 21, and they’d planned a night out. Sophie Logan had bought a little black dress for the occasion.
It took a while for the details of the mudslide to set in, Sophie Logan said. Growing up, she was used to the North Fork Stillaguamish River flooding. At first, she thought it’d be like that.
She thought about the victims, and she cried. She thought about how a home is supposed to be a place where people are safe, and how that didn’t seem true anymore.
To her, the planned presidential visit was “an incredible kind and human gesture,” she said.
She went to the White House website and filled out the form to send an email.
“No one likes to be reminded that at any moment something terrible can happen to ourselves, our children, our families, our neighbors and friends in a place we trusted and felt safe,” she wrote. “It’s a very humanizing moment, and our large community is still reeling from it. But it’s always a comfort, when, in the midst of terror and sadness, to know people will reach out and help you.”
She never expected a response. She hoped the jokes about the shrimp would make some White House staffer chuckle.
She told her family and her roommates about the letter.
“They all sort of rolled their eyes,” she said.
Heather Logan is used to her daughter’s love of language, her crackling wit and her “smart mouth,” she said.
They teased her a little about the letter, saying: “Sure, hon’, go ahead.”
On Saturday, April 19, Sophie Logan was dressed up as the Easter Bunny, working the annual Arlington egg hunt.
She started volunteering at the hospital when she was 16, and got hired as a part-time staffer the next year.
She’d been one of Santa’s elves, too.
“It’s all going into the memoir,” she said.
The bunny costume arms were too long for Logan, so she had to flop the paws like flippers to wave at the children. People were handing her babies and toddlers for pictures.
Her mom helped Logan take the costume off.
That’s when she checked her phone. She had a text message and voicemail from a 202 area code.
“She started jumping up and down,” Heather Logan said.
Sophie Logan ran across the field to tell her dad.
“I was just booking it, screaming,” she said.
She called the White House aide back. The aide told her to keep the invitation private.
Logan thought to herself: “Um, I just screamed it in front of 10 people.”
They took her information and told her to expect a call. She stared at her phone for two days.
When the call came, she was so excited she dropped the phone and it hung up.
She was told to be at a local park at a certain time to ride the bus carrying first responders and local dignitaries.
She asked the aide why she got invited.
The aide said: “I was just told to get you here.”
At that point, Logan didn’t know what to expect. At best, she figured she might get to shake the president’s hand.
She sat next to Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman on the bus as it zoomed eastbound on Highway 530.
In Oso, she was told to wait in the old schoolhouse with the governor, the mayor and others. Eventually, she was led into the basement.
She and the police and fire leaders were lined up between the stacks of donated food. Aides told her to stay at the end of the line.
When the president came in, Logan flung out her arm in shock, accidentally hitting Stedman.
“I’m standing there smiling as hard as I can imagine,” she said.
A Secret Service agent asked her: “Are you the girl who wrote the nice letter?”
Then an aide introduced her to Obama.
“Obama opens up his arms for a hug. I was just shocked. He’s really tall, and I’m really short,” she said.
At 5-foot-2, Logan is used to people talking over her head. Obama didn’t do that, she said. The next few moments were a blur. Obama told her he liked her letter. He talked to her about reading other people’s letters about the mudslide.
He told her it was too bad he didn’t get to try the shrimp.
He clapped her on the shoulder and said, “You’re a proud daughter of this town.”
“That was the best thing he could have said,” she said.
Her face was shaking, and her eyes were tearing up. She felt like the president listened to her, and that gave her faith.
“I still can’t believe the president read my letter. For 30 seconds, he knew who I was,” she said.
That night, the Logans went to the Bistro for dinner. Sophie Logan told chef-owner Martín Estrada-Perez and the staff what happened.
“They were pretty tickled,” she said.
When they got the bill, the shrimp had been comped.
The reason given on the receipt: “#potusprawns.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.