As I’ve mentioned before, I spent a decade before delving into the wild world of art as a real estate appraiser in Snohomish County, WA. If you don’t remember the real estate appraiser part, but the name Snohomish County, WA sounds familiar, you have probably been watching the news lately. About a 45 minute drive northeast of where I live was the site of the Oso Mud Slide on Saturday that devastated a town of barely 500 people by wiping out over 100 of them. I was not there that day. I can’t, off the top of my head, name any one person I knew there, but, as an appraiser several years back, I had been in some of the homes on Steelhead Drive (the main residential road wiped out by the slide) and interacted with several of the people who called it home. These weren’t yuppies in their mountain homes trying to escape city life. Most either grew up out there themselves or moved there to find their affordable piece of the American Dream. These weren’t planned communities or tract homes that were destroyed. These were small farms, multi-generational family homes and homesteads.
Six days ago, the KOMO 4 News Helicopter crashed as it was leaving the helipad atop the Fisher Plaza across the street from the Seattle Center (Space Needle, EMP, Pacific Science Center) and two people died with a third, a civilian en route to his day-job, still hospitalized awaiting yet another surgery due to severe burns suffered over large percentages of his body. Four days later, even closer to home, the mudslide hit on a sunny Spring day, when there was no school and families were just sloughing off the first of many layers of winter. It’s as if we in Washington State are trying to get some national attention. We need some. And some help…and lots of prayers.
I find myself in a near-conundrum. I am so very grateful for the blessings I have in my life and am very much aware of the suffering and grief that is palpable around our county.
I was reminded last night of how much my husband loves me…not by a ‘thing’ or a trinket but by his actions. Our daughter started vomiting profusely and without any pre-warning signs. My husband had been in bed for three hours already (he works ridiculously early in the morning, so he goes to bed before all of us), but when he realized a kid was sick, he jumped up and told me to let him handle it. Granted, he knows I vomit at the scent of vomit, but still, it was a reminder of what a good man he really is. Together we have mostly-healthy nine (almost ten!) year olds who are happier and more centered now than they ever were at our last house or at their last school.
Just today I was asked to be a featured artist at a great location in the Edmonds’ Art Walk for April (yes, next week) which was a goal of mine, so to see it come to fruition is awesome. I’ve sold more artwork this year already than in all previous years combined, so for that I AM so proud.
I am torn between gratitude and guilt over how this year in our lives is going knowing that, just a few short miles away, neighbors, many of whom I’ve met and had been invited into their homes, are suffering or deceased awaiting the discoveries of their bodies. I am MAD at all I’ve read, watched, heard or otherwise was tuned in to where people are jerks enough to try and make this landslide a political platform. I am beyond upset at headlines that read: Official: Residents knew of ‘high risk’ of landslides
I guarantee that of those that inherited their family farms in the path, there was never a serious sit-down-discussion over the eventuality of a catastrophic event that would ultimately wipe out the entire homestead and the families that dwell within. As a former real-estate-“professional”, I’d be willing to bet of those who bought homes within that area of ‘high risk’ that not a single agent, inspector, appraiser or banker in the chain of command stopped for a moment and explained to the potential buyers: “You understand that, if you buy a home in this area, you and your family PROBABLY WILL die in a mudslide”.
To the media, I ask you to refrain from playing the blame game…certainly not while the bodies are still just in the early stages of being uncovered. It’s a cheap shot at best. If, when the last ‘missing person’ is found, you feel you need to resume the blame, look beyond the people who purchased the properties or were living there at the time of the slide. Chances are they’re not around to fight your claims anyway, but be respectful of their memories. They moved there with the idea that it would be the best and most affordable place for them to live and raise their families and THAT is what they were expert in. “I Told You So” isn’t warranted, welcome or wanted.
For information on how you can help victims, the amazing heroic rescue teams or other information on the rescue efforts, please go to: For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mudslide-Info-and-Relief-effort/640536706001604
All those who live along the North Fork Stillaguamish River are urged to register at the Red Cross-run website safeandwell.org so loved ones can check on them there.