Oso, Washington, landslide memorial construction to begin

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OSO, Wash. (AP) — Families of victims of the Oso mudslide describe their visions for a memorial this way:

“For my brother’s legacy.”

“I want their stories to be told.”

And now, a permanent tribute off Highway 530 is one step closer to reality – nearly eight years after the landslide killed 43 people on March 22, 2014.

Construction is due to begin this summer, Carol Ohlfs, senior park planner at Snohomish County Parks & Recreation and project manager for the memorial, told The Daily Herald.


When completed, the memorial will honor the victims, survivors and first responders of the mudslide, one of the deadliest in US history.

Dayn Brunner, who lost his sister, Summer Raffo, 36, to the slide, has been thinking about the memorial since day zero.

“I wanted to make sure and make sure my sister’s legacy lives on,” he said. “I want the world to know who she was, what she stood for and how much she is missed by family and community.”

Since 2014, a tribute has been going up in pieces. That fall, 43 trees were planted, one for each victim. Later, a row of bronze mailboxes were installed to represent the Steelhead Haven neighborhood destroyed by a wall of mud.

Plans for a larger memorial have been in the works for years.

“We’ve had many, many, many meetings, screaming sessions, crying sessions, cuddling sessions, and the design is going to be remarkable when it’s done,” said John Hadaway, whose brother, Steve Hadaway , 53, died in the slide. .

After years of fundraising, the memorial secured full funding from Snohomish County Council last fall, which included $4.8 million.

The memorial will go up in phases, Olfs said.

Phase 1 will include work on the site: grading and drainage, as well as rock faces, a parking lot and the foundations of four shelters in honor of the first responders and the 11 landslide survivors.

In the fall, the Timber Framers Guild plans to build the shelters, Olfs said.

Phase 2, scheduled for summer 2023, will include final paving and the addition of art and interpretive panels, she said.

“The permanent memorial will be completed before the 10-year remembrance ceremony in 2024,” she said.

The county has worked with the families to come up with preliminary designs and is turning to artists to interpret them in more detail.

The Snohomish County Arts Commission issued a call for artists last month for two items: the memorial beacon and 26 panels that will honor those killed and family groups.

The beacon will be installed in the staging area and “will be placed to cast a shadow over a focal point on March 22 at 10:37 a.m. each year.”

To the east, memorial signs will be made of “curved corten steel” and may include names, quotes, images and other personal touches.

Ohlfs said the goal was to provide a theme and allow families to customize their signs. Three concept artists will be selected for consideration by families.

John Hadaway said he had no specific design in mind. Its criteria are simple: “As long as it comes from the heart. …And as long as it’s beautiful.

Several family members would like to continue the butterfly theme. There are 43 butterflies carved into rocks on either side of the memorial gates, arranged in the shape of the infinity symbol.

Jessica Pszonka lost six family members, including her sister, Katie Ruthven, 34, to the slide. She said she promised her sister to follow through on the memorial. When the project was fully funded, “it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off our shoulders, she said.

“I’m so excited that we can accomplish this,” Pszonka said. “It will be a beautiful place. It will be a place not only for family members to heal, but also for first responders and survivors to gather and heal.

Call for artists

Artist concepts are due March 25 for commemorative panels. For more information, visit snocoarts.org/jobs.

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