Oso: A tight knit community takes care of its own

By Carolyn Adolph

Oso is just east of Arlington on a road that opens to a green valley. The Stillaguamish river winds south of the town, then it snakes north to the disaster site. Oso used to be a peaceful place, a logging town. Not now.

Dozens of emergency vehicles are parked around the fire station on the outskirts of town. People are shouting and waving signs. Beyond there, the town itself remains intact. There’s a sawmill and a chapel.

The general store has been closed for years. The town’s pastor, Gary Ray, says the local economy is depressed. “That’s one of the problems….there is no ind here. Logging, dairy…not strong anymore.’

People who live in Oso tend to work out of town, in north Seattle, Everett and elsewhere in the region.
Few people are home during the day. Nichole Stinson has lived here for generations. She says “we lost our post office…. general store has been out of commission for two years.” She lives just down the street from it. Her veranda is lined with dirty boots.

Family members have been working at the slide every day since the disaster wiped out the Steelhead neighborhood, several miles down the road. Stinson says she’s the 12th generation in this area. Her grandchildren make it the 14th. Her family’s not the only one. "Gosh, some of the families go way back," says Stinson. 

It’s a community suffering a major loss. People from the outside are coming into the town to help. At the Chapel, JoAnne Fitzgerald is one of them. She says “we're coming up to do the chaplaincy work....because there's so much trauma." And it's not jut helpers. Media and the curious have descended as well.

But the desire to care for their own is strong here. Nicole Stinson says they’re private people who are in pain. Stinson says many people in Oso haven’t cried yet. Her family is safe. She hasn’t cried and says she would embarrass herself to cry. That’s because of the courage of the people who have been hurt by this disaster, like Seth Jefferds, who lost his wife and grand-child.

Stinson says there are great stories yet to be told. But it's hard to talk about it while you're still living it.
“There are amazing stories of heroism…..but these are our stories right now, not the world’s stories. “

She says they can become the world’s stories, after the immediate crisis is past.

The resolve to protect those grieving, and to put on muddy boots to aid the recovery every day, that’s Oso Strong.
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