North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Plans revealed for Oso landslide memorial

 

March 28, 2018 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Snohomish County Parks director Tom Teigen, left, and Tom Pszonka, father and grandfather to some of the 2014 Oso landslide victims, talk on March 22 about plans for a memorial at the site of the landslide.

Four years to the day after the March 22, 2014, Oso landslide took the lives of 43 locals, family members of the victims gathered at the site to unveil plans for a memorial there.

Families hope that the memorial will be able to serve as a remembrance for those who passed away because of the slide.

"This has been something that everybody has wanted because it is carrying on the legacy of all the victims and that's important to me," said Dayn Brunner, a Darrington local who lost his sister in the landslide.

Part of the memorial will inform visitors about the victims.

"Summer [Brunner's sister] was the hardest-working women I've ever met. And for her to be gone has left a void and hole in our hearts," he said.

"This [memorial] tells a story and that is very important to me. This tells the story of Summer, the story of my sister's life," he said.

Families said that planning work on the memorial has taken a long time and they are glad to see it moving forward.

"The memorial is everything to me. It means so much to all the families," said Tom Pszonka, an Arlington local who lost his daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren in the landslide.

"For four years I've felt very frustrated by not being able to do anything. Now we have a chance to not only honor the victims, but honor all the people who came out here," he said.

In addition to parts of the memorial talking about the victims, there will be parts which will recognize contributions from the community.

"We want to build a memorial here at the site that will pay tribute, not only to those that are lost, but those who survived, the neighborhoods that used to be here and the responders who all came to help," said Amy Lucas, a senior planner with Snohomish County Parks.

Families appreciated the first responders and volunteers who came out to help in the days after the slide, and wanted to honor the fact they were able to recover the remains of all 43 victims.

"It really is a miracle that they found them all," said Karen Pszonka, Tom's wife. "How do you thank people like that? I think this is the best way."

Many community members came out to sift through the square mile of mud in the days and weeks following the landslide.

"I found my sister on day five, and I kept coming back. It was important to me to get everybody out," said Brunner.

"All the people that left their jobs to dig through the mud, by hand or with shovels," will be recognized in the memorial, he said.

The 43 trees that were planted after the landslide to commemorate the victims are planned to be a part of the new memorial as well.

"That was sort of a temporary makeshift memorial that has turned out to be a more permanent thing for folks," said Brunner.

Initial memorial planning began six months after the Oso landslide, "but really I'd say in the last 14 to 16 months has been more intensive," said Tom Teigen, director of the Snohomish County Parks department.

Parks department members have been meeting with family members to work toward a memorial.

"This is about the families and the communities and the response," said Teigen ,. "They've been driving this bus the whole time and we've appreciated that."

Meetings were held with those who wanted to be part of the process.

"We asked them what they wanted and needed in a memorial," said Lucas.

"We would work on the conceptual design and bring that back to them. And every meeting we would refine that a little more," she said.

For many families the four-year mark is a reminder of what they have lost.

"This day is very important to me. I hate to use the word 'anniversary' because 'anniversary' means something that is upbeat," said Brunner.

Tom Pszonka said that waking up on many days is hard.

"Every morning is pretty much the same. Every morning I miss them ... if it wasn't for family and friends it would be hard to get up in the morning," he said.

"I spent 30 years as a police officer and I always thought I would be a lot stronger. But without them [family and friends] I would be nothing," he said.

Pszonka said he doesn't want to make it all about him, as many were affected.

"It buries into your soul and doesn't go away," he said.

"There were 43 souls lost here and there's only so many people here. It's not because of lack of interest from the families. It's because this is so difficult for everybody," he said.

Fundraising efforts have now begun for the project. Snohomish County Parks officials estimate that about $3 million to $4 million will be needed to begin the project, with some additional funds needed for engineering and civil studies.

The fact that the site of the memorial will be on a flood plain next to a river presents some challenges for the design, said Lucas.

They also hope to raise enough funds to create an endowment that will handle the maintenance of the memorial.

Parks officials said that donations of materials and services will also be appreciated.

For more information on how to donate to the memorial go to http://slidememorial.com.

All funds donated will go into a nonprofit organization created specifically for the Oso landslide memorial project.

Courtesy Image

Early concept plans for a memorial at the site of the March 22, 2014 Oso landslide. These plans are still subject to change.

"All the donations that go to the slide memorial will stay with the slide memorial. They don't get donated to the parks to be used wherever," said Brunner.

If enough money is raised, Lucas said that families hope to hold a "ground blessing" ceremony on the five-year mark of the Oso landslide and have it finished for the sixth-year or seventh-year remembrance.

Tom Pszonka wanted to thank Snohomish County Parks officials for their work with the families of the victims.

"Everything that was done was done with the thoughts of the family," he said. "I can't thank them enough for how hard they've worked."

More information about the memorial design is available at snohomishcountywa.gov/3965/SR-530-Mudslide-Memorial and more information about the project and donating is available at slidememorial.com.

 

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