Richard Walker
Snohomish County Fire Chief Travis Hots is blanketed by Tulalip children during a fundraiser on April 5 for a neighboring community devastated by a deadly landslide.

Tulalip Fundraiser Helps People Begin to Heal in Washington Landslide

Richard Walker
4/9/14

TULALIP, Washington—It was April 5, 14 days after the massive landslide in the nearby community of Oso, and it was painfully apparent that no more survivors would emerge from the mud that had wiped out a neighborhood there.

That ground is now hallowed, Samish Nation general manager Leslie Eastwood said, and she sang “Amazing Grace” in the Samish language, an offering of hope for a hurting community: “Through many dangers, toils and snares / I have already come; 'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far / and Grace will lead me home.”

And so it went that evening in the Tulalip Tribes Gymnasium. It was a fundraiser for the victims and families of the landslide, but it was more than that: It was a gathering to help people—Native and non-Native alike, from Tulalip and from the region—come together and begin to heal.

The side of an 800-foot hill above the Stillaguamish River had calved on March 22, sending a tsunami of soil racing over the river and a state highway and into a neighborhood, leaving in its wake a debris field of one square mile. As of April 8, the death toll was at 33; 12 people are listed as missing.

RELATED: Native Landslide Survivor Describes Devastating Wall of Mud; Missing Reduced to 30

At the Tulalip event, children blanketed Snohomish County Fire Chief Travis Hots, who has been overseeing the rescue and recovery effort. He recalled the moment he became aware of the magnitude and scope of the landslide: When the call came, one of his firefighters told him his home was in that area and asked if he could go check on his family. Later, the firefighter was carried back to the command post by two colleagues; his family was gone.

Many people in the gym that evening know that pain of loss. Natosha Gobin, Tulalip, who organized this fund-raiser, said she was taught—as many Tulalip children are taught—about the deadly landslide in the 1820s on nearby Camano Island that destroyed a village and sent a killer tsunami to another island.

Tomorrow is not a promise, she said. And when tragedy strikes, there is no barrier between peoples and communities. We’re all in it together, and we have to help each other get through it.

“This tragedy has brought people from all over together,” Gobin said of Oso, adding that at Tulalip, “we live in a tight-knit community, and when tragedy occurs we come together to offer whatever talent, whatever abilities we have to help. In our Native community, we’re used to that. It’s ingrained within us.”

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