Washington mudslide survivor recalls moment disaster hit, saving her son

The death toll from last month's mudslide in Oso, Wash., has grown to 36. Survivors are still coming to grips with the physical and emotional scars.

One young mother pulled from the rubble told her story for the first time Thursday to CBS Seattle station KIRO. Her ordeal, she says, began in a flash.

Amanda Skorjanc said, "I looked out our front door and it was like a movie. Houses were exploding, and the next thing I remember, well the next thing that I see, is our neighbor's chimney coming into our front door."

From her hospital bed, Skorjanc, 25, recalled the moment the wall of water and mud came crashing down without warning, pinning her and her 5-month old son, Duke. "I held onto that baby like that was the only purpose I had," she said. "I did not let that baby go for one second."

When it was all over, CBS News' Seth Doane reported, the powerful mudslide had nearly wiped out her small town. Skorjanc and Duke lay trapped under a broken couch, 600 feet from where their house once stood. Both were severely injured.

Skorjanc recalled, "He was dirty and a little blue, and I thought I was losing him so I would give him little sternal rubs and I would pat on his chest and I would say, 'Stay with me bud,' and then I'd ask God not to take him in front of me."

With two broken legs, Skorjanc prayed help would arrive before it was too late. "As soon as I heard that voice, somebody like screaming to see if anybody was there," she said. "As soon as I heard that voice, I knew that he was going to be OK."

Duke was carried away from the rubble just before his mother was pulled to safety.

Doctors say it could be months before she walks again. The baby continues to recover from a skull fracture.

Skorjanc said, "Oso is home, but I'll never go back. I won't visit. I can't."

While Skorjanc is thankful her family survived, she admits it's difficult knowing others lost so much. "I'm so overwhelmed with the amount of love and support that we get every day," she said. "It just helps. It helps a lot. I will pay it forward for the rest of my life."

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