The Oso mudslide site on March 22, 2017, three years after the disaster. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The Oso mudslide site on March 22, 2017, three years after the disaster. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Families announce plans for an Oso mudslide memorial

Visitors from throughout the world visit the site of the 2014 slide, which killed 43 people.

OSO — Plans were announced Thursday for a memorial in honor of the 43 people who died in the Oso mudslide four years ago.

The families have been working for the past few years on the project. Snohomish County parks staff provided support and guidance, but wanted to give the families the ultimate say, county spokesman Kent Patton said.

Having something permanent in Oso will serve the survivors, but also others seeking to understand what happened, he said. Visitors from throughout the world stop by the site.

A fundraising effort is starting, supported by the families. A website,, has been created with more information and a link to donate.

The goal is to raise $6 million, according to fundraising materials. Donations are welcome, including supplies and services.

The timeline includes a blessing at the site on March 22, 2019 — the five-year remembrance of the mudslide. Snohomish County owns the 13 acres that have been dedicated to the memorial. Most of the land would remain natural, but four acres along the Whitehorse Trail through the slide area are to be developed for the project.

“We’re to the point now where the design is just about finished,” Dayn Brunner said Thursday.

Brunner lost his sister, Summer Raffo. He is on the memorial committee for families and fundraising.

Experts who worked on memorials for the World Trade Center, Columbine High School and the Oklahoma City federal building were consulted, he said.

On the south side of Highway 530, where an American flag has waved since the early days of the disaster, a permanent flag pole and lighting is to be installed, Brunner said. There will be designated viewpoints “that will stand the test of time,” he said.

Elements will represent the Steelhead Haven neighborhood, those killed in the mudslide, everyone who came together, and the history of the Stillaguamish River Valley, Brunner said.

Designs call for a sculpture of the mailboxes that stood at Steelhead Drive, a Callery pear tree donated by the 9/11 Foundation, a boardwalk, shelters and an area with curved steel panels for each of the 43 people killed in the slide. The panels would have space for names, photos, mementos and decorations.

Other items expected to be added to the memorial include carved benches and totem poles, first responders’ boots and daily response journals from the National Guard.

Paving the Whitehorse Trail also is part of the plan.

Gail Thompson, whose home was destroyed in the disaster, wants the focus to be on the people of the valley, and those who have stood by them. She recalls the generosity of strangers around the world who donated to help those affected.

The memorial planning took time. Love is the most important piece, Thompson said.

“It’s the people before the project,” she said. “Always.”

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