Bells rang out in Washington State yesterday to honor victims of the mudslide north of Seattle. Eight days after the slide buried the town of Oso, the searching and the mourning are far from over. John Blackstone has our Sunday Journal:
The mountains that rise above the north fork of the Stillaguamish River have been shrouded in rain clouds much of this week. A winter of heavy rain may have played a role in triggering the massive landslide that transformed a quiet Saturday morning into a scene of confusion and horror.
"It was overwhelming," said Jan McClelland. "As far as I could see was devastation, as far as I could see. It was incredible."
The McClellands are volunteer firefighters who were among the first to reach the scene.
"What we got into that morning was mud, it was like pea soup, quicksand," said Jan, "but we knew we had to go through that kind of terrain to be able to get to the first gentlemen that we ended up airlifting out of there."
With the road destroyed, rescue helicopters were essential. From the air, crew chief Randy Fay searched for survivors.The chopper crew descended to pull four-year-old Jacob Spillers to safety.
"We have no clue how he ended up there by himself," said Fay, "but he was out in the middle of nowhere. No homes, no nothing."
The little boy reminded Fay of his own grandson.
"Well, I'll cry. So maybe that's not a good idea," he said, as he got emotional. "Crap. Sorry."
Jacob is recovering, but his father, two brothers and a sister were lost in the landslide. His mother was away at work and survived.
The landslide's youngest known victim is four-month-old Sanoah Huestis, who died along with her grandmother.
It's a loss that is personal for Jeff and Jan McClelland, who know Sanoah's family.
Another of their friends, 21-year-old Alan Bejvl, is still missing, along with his fiance, Delaney Webb.
"He was just a great kid," Jan said. "Hard worker, just starting out life with his fiance, I just feel so bad for his family."
Diana Bejvl is Alan's mother: "My husband said, 'Why would God want to take Alan?'" Diana said. "I said, 'Who didn't want Alan?'"
"I picture them in kitchen, I don't think they know what happened, it was fast."
Search officials acknowledge that after more than a week, it's unlikely anyone could still be alive beneath the mud and debris.
But the search remains urgent for the McClellands. They have returned to work at the site almost every day.
"You want to do whatever you can to help these people find their family members," said Jan. "That's important to me. So I'll keep going back."
"May sound strange, but it's therapeutic, 'cause it gives us purpose," said Jeff. "That's why we're here. We want to go help. That's why the other people are out there. They want to go help. Let's do something. We want to be out there doing it."