Solemn ceremony as Highway 530 reopens

OSO — On Saturday morning, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered on Highway 530 near the giant spruce tree that stands as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the March 22 mudslide.

The sky was clear blue and the sun was bright overhead, unlike the rainy morning when the hill came down and wiped out the Steelhead Haven neighborhood.

Gov. Jay Inslee, joined by Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin and other community leaders and residents, was there to mark the reopening of the highway — a symbolic end to 10 frantic weeks of loss and recovery.

Before the road was to open at noon, those gathered were to walk the length of broken pavement and gravel through a newly carved depression through the mountain of mud where a neighborhood once stood.

It was mostly a moment for reflection. Inslee didn’t make a speech, instead talking one-on-one with people from Oso, Darrington, Arlington and points beyond.

“It’s nice for people to be here together for each other,” Inslee said.

He chatted with Dave Chapman, a bus driver for the Arlington School District who lives in Darrington, about the difficulties students and commuters have faced getting around the slide.

He also talked to Lindsey Tonkyn, the elected 2014 Timberbowl Queen of the Darrington rodeo, who came from Lyman in full western garb.

“This year’s rodeo is going to be different,” Tonkyn said.

At 9:30 a.m., Pastor Gary Ray of the Oso Community Chapel addressed the gathering.

“I believe we are better together, so thank you again for standing shoulder to shoulder, neighbor to neighbor,” Ray said.

Leading a prayer, Ray said, “Thank you, Lord, for this victory we’re celebrating today, the opening of this road.”

He then asked the people for a moment of silence, and the only sounds were the chirping of birds and the soft rush of the North Fork Stillaguamish River.

With that, the group of families, neighbors and friends began to walk down the road.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com.

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