Darrington left off the presidential agenda

DARRINGTON — Whether due to time constraints, safety concerns or logistical difficulties, Tuesday’s presidential visit didn’t include a stop in Darrington, a town crippled by the slide.

When the visit was first announced, there was some speculation around town that President Barack Obama might throw out the first pitch at Tuesday’s Darrington High School baseball game.

One of the people in the stands was Julie Kuntz, whose family avoided the slide because they were out of town for their son Quinton’s baseball game. Their house was destroyed. Kuntz’s aunt, Linda McPherson, who lived nearby, was killed.

Kuntz wasn’t among those invited to meet the president, as the trip was reserved for people who lost immediate family.

“I realized I wasn’t gonna meet the president today, so I figured I’d get some work done, then watch some baseball,” she said. “I don’t have any complaints with how they did it. I think they tried to keep it intimate. I don’t have any sore spot over it.”

McPherson’s husband, Gary “Mac” McPherson, was invited but didn’t go. “He didn’t want to ride the bus,” Kuntz said. “He’s kind of ornery that way.”

At the Red Top Tavern, the general sentiment of those watching the president’s 4 p.m. speech was that Darrington had been snubbed. And there was no mention of the status of Highway 530, a critical passageway for those living east of Oso.

Janet Ross lives in Reece’s Hideout, 17 miles from Darrington. She hasn’t been out of town in four weeks.

“It’s our lifeline, it’s not just a matter of convenience,” she said.

Pete Reece, a descendent of the founder of Reece’s Hideout, is a driver for Washington Compost. Two days after the slide he began working on the bypass road to Arlington, which is temporarily filling in for Highway 530. Most Darrington residents aren’t permitted to access the road.

Reece didn’t have much to say about the president’s visit, just a message for those running the recovery process.

“Open the bypass road to us,” he said.

Meanwhile his girlfriend, Suzie Jessen, said she’s writing a letter to Obama.

“I’m not happy the president didn’t come here,” she said.

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