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Guard joins family and first responders at SR530 remembrance


OSO, Wash. -- One year after the deadliest landslide event in U.S. history, friends and families of the victims, members of the community as well as first responders and guardsmen with the Washington National Guard who responded to the massive landslide came together on Sunday, March 22, 2015 in remembrance of the event and the lives lost that day. The event began with a moment of silence at 10:37 a.m., the time the slide occurred.

The State Route 530 landslide, more commonly known as the Oso mudslide, destroyed an entire neighborhood and 49 homes while taking the lives of 43 people.

"It's humbling just to be back here with all the families, with all the first responders because we all became like a big family," said Washington Air Force National Guard Airmen First Class Nicole Holland, a medic with the 141st Medical Group.

Prior to the start of the event, guardsmen had the opportunity to reconnect with the first responders they worked with during the response to the landslide. Some guardsmen even kept in contact with people they met while supporting the slide recovery mission, however, the remembrance event will be the first time they have gotten to see each other since the slide.

"Throughout the year, I've talked with a couple of the firefighters [I worked with] but since being here I've spent quite a bit of time with one of the firefighters I worked with from Oso," said Washington Air Force National Guard Cpt. Kevin Wolff with the 141st Civil Engineer Squadron. "We worked together during the whole scene and it's good to hang out with him and reconnect, to share some of the stories from the past but also look toward the future."

Moving forward is exactly what the remembrance event is about, giving community members and first responders another opportunity to see each other, to see how they have all been able to move forward after such a tragic disaster and to see the slide area after its year of growth.

After the moment of silence the names of the 43 people lost that day were read aloud, with each name accompanied by the ring of a bell. After each name was heard, the flag that was set up during the initial slide event was finally raised after remaining at half-staff for the year in recognition of the events that took place that day and the lives lost. Although the raising of the flag concluded the ceremony, people were invited to stay a while longer and continue to reconnect with the people they met and bonded with one year ago.

"It's the one-year anniversary of the 530 [landslide] and we're out here with the first responders who supported it as well as some soldiers from Delta Company 1-161 [Infantry Battalion]," said Washington Army National Guard Cpt. Mike McCarthy, a Company Commander with Alpha Co. 1-161 Infantry Battalion.

A tragedy struck the communities of Arlington, Darrington and Oso but everyone involved in that tragedy united as one to recover from the tragic event and bring closure to the community and in that unity, bonds were forged that will be remembered for a lifetime.

"Even though there was this great tragedy that happened and so much loss of life, it was also really awesome to see the unity of the community," said Wolff. "We all came together, people from different walks of life just showed up just to help and we all came together and united in one common goal."