The search ended earlier this week for victims of the tragic 22 March mudslide near Oso, Washington, a small community an hour northeast of Seattle. According to the Associated Press, 11 people were rescued, but crews recovered 41 bodies, and 2 people are still missing.
While the country and families of the victims are still mourning the tragic loss of lives, there are countless stories of service and acts of compassion that began almost immediately following the catastrophic event.
On that fateful day, rescue crews were on site ready to respond within minutes of a hillside giving way that triggered a massive mudslide that engulfed several neighborhoods in the sludge. Geologists determined the flow of mud that spanned more than 300 acres was unstable, however, and rescue attempts at that time were halted.
Countless other volunteers began flocking to the nearby town of Darrington to assist. Seeing a need, Mormon women from the Relief Society organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sprang into action, cooking meals in the Darrington Community Center and helping the Darrington High School students unload, sort and distribute the thousands of pounds of food and supplies that poured into the town. Latter-day Saints joined other volunteers, working 16-hour days in the wake of the destruction.
Dawn Watland, Relief Society president for the Arlington 2nd Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, arrived soon after the disaster to help. Because the only direct route into Darrington was closed, Watland traveled the nearly two-hour detour from Arlington to reach the mudslide.
Physical challenges did not discourage Latter-day Saint John Vance from volunteering. He put in long hours daily at the food bank and at Darrington High School helping to sort and distribute food and supplies.
Dennis Grimmer, another member of the Mormon Church, worked with Home Depot, which agreed to donate needed building supplies such as shelving materials for the food bank. Grimmer drove his vehicle to the Mount Vernon Home Depot, an hour away from Darrington, and was met by six Home Depot employees who quickly loaded his vehicle.
His wife, Laura Grimmer, summed up the feelings of those affected by the tragedy: “We’re going to be okay because we have each other.”