OSO — This is the time of year for extra sensitivity and love.
Joel Johnson, Oso fire department chaplain and volunteer firefighter, asks for prayers and kindness for those who are grieving.
Events are planned this weekend in Oso, Darrington and Arlington to remember lives lost and to recognize the strength of the Stillaguamish Valley. It’s a chance for people to come together, three years after a disaster.
The Ride to Remember Oso is planned for Sunday. The 28-mile bicycle ride starts in downtown Arlington and follows Highway 530 toward Darrington. The event starts around 8 a.m. Riders are expected to be released from the starting line in groups of 43, in memory of the 43 people who died in the Oso mudslide on March 22, 2014.
Another shorter ride is planned at 10 a.m. along the Whitehorse Trail, starting at the Fortson Mill Trailhead toward Darrington. That six-mile ride is free and family friendly. It’s called the JoJo Trail Ride and is in memory of Jovon “JoJo” Mangual, a 13-year-old Post Middle School student who died in the mudslide. JoJo’s father reportedly had a custom bike built in honor of his son, and that sparked the idea for a memorial ride.
A Celebration of Strong Communities is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Darrington Community Center, 570 Sauk Ave. People are invited for food, drinks and family activities. Local and state leaders plan to talk about efforts to recover and rebuild the area’s economy.
Many locals have been surprised to see how many people still are ready to offer support three years later, Johnson said. He hopes the events Sunday serve as a time to respectfully remember everything that has happened over the past few years, and to show love for friends and neighbors.
It’s good to stand together during a hard time, Johnson said. The three-year mark is sure to stir raw emotions.
“Yes, people are strong. Yes, people have done what they can up to this point to cope,” he said. “But those memories are still very real and those are things that we as a community, and members of our community who lost loved ones, still deal with.”
Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said she hopes to see hundreds of people at Sunday’s events, including those who helped with the mudslide rescue and recovery efforts.
Volunteers and leaders across the Stilly Valley, and at the state and national level, have worked together on long-term recovery. They drafted an economic redevelopment plan that looked at more than 200 actions that could be taken to improve the local economy and quality of life.
That document was condensed into a community revitalization plan and entered into a three-year national competition called America’s Best Communities. Arlington and Darrington now are in the finals. They are set to compete for a $3 million prize in April. The money would go toward revitalization.
“The story will continue,” Tolbert said. “Progress on the recovery and the economic vitality of these communities already is under way, and I can’t imagine that it won’t continue.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.
To learn more about this weekend’s events, go to rideto rememberoso.com. Riders can register there for the 28-mile ride, which costs $30. People interested in volunteering can go to rideto rememberoso.com/volunteer.