Nearly 2,000 items found in deadly Oso mudslide — toys, photos, clothes — go unclaimed
EVERETT — About 400 items and more than 1,500 pictures and documents remain unclaimed by family members affected by the Oso mudslide that killed 43 people on March 22.
As the clean-up of the slide began, crews removed precious items in an effort to reunite them with surviving family members.
Last April, a reunification center was opened to house up to 2,200 household items and more than 20,000 photos and documents found in the debris field. It was all cataloged. Volunteers spent countless hours trying to figure out who owned the various items, which included everything from tools and clothing to children’s toys.
Volunteers acted as detectives, linking pictures with familiar faces. July Andre, the manager of the reunification center, said she sometimes worked seven days a week.
“I try to look at them and wonder who they actually belonged to, you know? I have multiple cameras, some of the toys,” Andre said Thursday.
It was an emotionally draining task, but everyone involved said they knew how important it was to try to bring closure to family members who lost loved ones.
"I would see often ... a sparkle in their eye. They would come in so drained and fatigued and, you know, deeply wounded and to see them light up was really fulfilling on my end. I feel like the lucky one," Andre said.
The reunification center is set to close, but the remaining items will be kept in a safe place. Some ideas of what to do with them include putting them in a possible memorial or museum.