The Spruce: A place of strength

An old spruce that stood when the mudslide hit was a living memorial to the resilience of Oso.

The Sitka spruce stood firm as the mudslide scoured away its bark and so much more from this quiet valley.

Trees. Homes. People.


Not the old spruce. Its branches still rose to the cold gray sky as rain and tears fell.

Trees like these only grow in river valleys soggy with rain and mist. It’s at least three stories tall with a trunk six feet across. How long it has been here, no one can say.

The Oso tree was one of the few landmarks for those who call this valley home as they waded into the mud. It greeted those who came to help them look for the lost.

It was there as the ground surrendered photos and furniture, blenders and Bibles — the comforts of homes ripped apart by earth that suddenly rolled across the valley 140 centuries after it last saw sun.

The spruce was there when searchers removed their hard hats and turned off their heavy equipment, the silence marking another person found. One of the dead was an angler who had longed for a home where he always heard a river’s song. He was found almost under its limbs.

In a landscape stripped of the familiar, the big scarred tree remains.

Searchers found a large cedar plank in the mud. They took it to a local mill. Planed and shaped, the fragrant slab was hung on the spruce’s trunk. A carved inscription memorializes the morning the hill fell: “Oso. 10:45 a.m. 3/22/14.”

Workers lined up their excavators, like cavalry on a parade ground. They laid a wreath at the spruce’s trunk, carried by two people from this place who spent a month in the mud, searching.

They stood firm.

The roots are strong.

Talk to us

More in Local News

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Craig Hess (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
Sultan’s new police chief has 22 years in law enforcement

Craig Hess was sworn in Sep. 14. The Long Island-born cop was a first-responder on 9/11. He also served as Gold Bar police chief.

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Woman killed in crash on Highway 99 in Lynnwood

Police closed off Highway 99 between 188th Street SW and 196th Street SW while they investigated.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Most Read