OSO — The loud, clear note of the bell faded but didn’t fall silent as the 43 names were read.
Family and friends of those killed four years ago in the Oso mudslide gathered Thursday at the site of the disaster. A quiet followed, except for the patter of the rain, log trucks passing on the highway and the fussy coo of a baby.
They listened to the names of the survivors, a much shorter list. They put arms around one another and bowed their heads.
At 10:37 a.m., the group paused for a full minute of silence, remembering. That’s when the mudslide swept away a neighborhood and buried Highway 530 between Darrington and Arlington on March 22, 2014.
The annual ceremony was held near the cedar grove that has 43 trees. Someday the spot will host a permanent memorial.
Oso firefighter and chaplain Joel Johnson said a prayer, asking for “a peace that goes beyond all earthly understanding,” and that those present honor those lost in all they say and do. He spoke of abounding grace and love.
Dayn Brunner lost his sister, Summer Raffo, in the slide. She was driving the highway to a job shoeing horses that morning. Brunner and others searched the mud and debris for days. They found her on March 26, 2014.
It’s emotional, coming together each year, Brunner said.
“We do it because we want everybody’s legacy to live on,” he said. “That’s why I do it. I want Summer’s legacy to live on forever. I’ll be out here, every year, at 10:37.”
As rain fell before Thursday’s ceremony, little girls in matching pink coats, carrying pink polka-dot umbrellas, squealed as they greeted a little boy with blonde hair.
People gathered in groups to share updates on their lives: new jobs, new homes, children’s birthdays.
South across the highway, an American flag waved at half staff on a spar pole that was limbed by rescuers four days after the slide. Daffodils bloomed underneath, bright yellow, planted by Oso folks.
In the cedar grove, a bouquet of daffodils welcomed visitors from a bucket, along with photos, painted rocks and yellow toy trucks. Some of the flowers were real. Others were handcarved from wood by a man who lost his home. His daughter planted several at the edge of what remains of the run-out.
Daffodils return to this valley every year.