BYU and Darrington student shares experiences in relief efforts following mudslides

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The mudslides in Oso, a small community near Darrington, Wash., cover more than 7 million cubic yards, the equivalent to 545 football fields and six feet deep in parts, with more than 27 confirmed casualties as of Tuesday, April 1, according to the Washington Post.

According the Reuters, the mud-filled landscape is toxic with sewage, propane and household chemicals laying under the topsoil which engulfed the rural community.

BYU senior Jordan Grimmer calls Darrington home.

Remains of car left in the  trail of destruction of a mudslide which took more than 27 lives on March 22 in Oso, Wash. (Courtesy of Jordan Grimmer)
Remains of car left in the trail of destruction of a mudslide which took more than 27 lives on March 22 in Oso, Wash. (Courtesy Jordan Grimmer)

“It was unrecognizable. Just that one part of the road,” Grimmer, an English major, said of the destruction caused by the mudslides on March 22. “It looked like a junkyard and smelled like one too. Cars had been absolutely crushed. Trees were crooked. Remnants of people. Bodies being airlifted by the National Guard.”

Grimmer, who grew up five miles from the slides, paid a visit to his hometown with a population of more than 1,300 with his brother to aid in humanitarian efforts on Tuesday, March 25. He did anything from combing the hillside for survivors to providing meals for search-and-rescue teams.

“It was very solemn. You wanted to find things but then you didn’t,” Grimmer said.

Much of the search-and-rescue efforts were led by the local loggers who gave up work time and wages to find friends and loved ones, according to Grimmer. He said government organizations like FEMA were not familiar with the heavily wooded areas so loggers led the way.

The mudslides came at a great surprise to the Darrington community he said, even though flooding is a common part of life in Darrington.

“People weren’t prepared,” Grimmer said of the slides taking Oso and the surrounding communities.

A classmate of Grimmer is missing his younger brother and brother’s fiancé. Efforts continue to find former students of Grimmer’s brother. The small community of Darrington manages to push forward despite the tragedy.

“These people are tough. They pull together. Everyone is on the same page,” Grimmer said of his hometown.

The town of Darrington is centered around the community center where relief efforts are organized, meals are prepared for relief workers and funerals will be held according to Grimmer. The community center is a place where the town rallies around and finds strength.

Relief has come across the country, which Grimmer describes as overwhelming, yet it doesn’t make anything easier. Grimmer feels it will take months for Darrington to recover and be fully functional again.

“It’s the way of life,” Grimmer said of strength and resiliency of his hometown. “The kind of small town you see in movies. It makes it easier.”

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