Two years after Oso slide, we are survivors, stronger and united

  • By Barbara Tolbert, Dan Rankin and Chuck Morrison
  • Friday, March 25, 2016 3:18pm
  • OpinionCommentary

The Stillaguamish Valley is home to families, friends and neighbors who have known adversity and come together when crisis strikes. Yet prior to March 22, 2014, few of us could have imagined the tragedy that would befall our community.

The Oso landslide propelled us into a catastrophe that tested our strength in ways few have known or ever will. Two years on, we reflect on the many ways our communities have come together and how far we’ve come since the day the mountainside fell.

Looking back, our challenge was two-fold: to address the emergency needs in the immediate aftermath of the disaster as well as the longer-term, secondary impacts. It required leadership, bold decisionmaking and consensus-building. Most importantly, in the early days of the response when every moment was defined by urgency, devastation and grief, it required insight and a clear, forward-looking vision of the future we wanted for our communities.

Today, that vision is bearing fruit. We are no longer victims of disaster, we are survivors. We are not mired in tragedy, we are honoring the memory of those we lost by working together, investing in and moving toward recovery. Together, we are forging greater opportunity and economic stability. We are united in prioritizing the emotional well-being and academic success of our children and taking tangible steps to help them cope with trauma. We are providing emotional support, open to all, to help everyone through the healing process at their own pace. We’ve assessed and strengthened weak points in community services to ensure a safety network for the most vulnerable.

Together we learned that after a disaster strikes, it doesn’t leave town. Together, we learned that to shape a meaningful recovery required us to lean into existing knowledge and expertise. We consider ourselves fortunate for the many partnerships and collaborations borne of the disaster that continue to thrive.

To this day the scars in the landscape are a visual and visceral reminder of the threads that connect our communities and how strong those bonds must be when facing unimaginable challenges. Time has allowed us to see the bigger picture and the vital importance of long-term, sustained support. Together we are stronger and together we remain committed to our communities of the Stillaguamish Valley.

Barbara Tolbert is the mayor of Arlington. Dan Rankin is the mayor of Darrington and Chuck Morrison is executive director of the American Red Cross of Snohomish County.

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