Check air quality in your neighborhood

Fundraising effort kicks off for a permanent Oso landslide memorial

OSO, Wash.--  The hillside looks just as ragged as it did four years ago where the massive Oso landslide took place. And for those that lost loved ones, the emotions are just as raw, too.

Survivors and family members of the 2014 Oso landslide unveiled plans for a permanent memorial to honor those who lost their lives four years ago Thursday in the deadliest landslide in U.S. history.

"When you went to see him at games, you could tell it was him a mile away," Karen Pszonka said of her grandson Hunter as she walked down the temporary remembrance path.

The Arlington woman has magnificent and tearful stories for each of the six trees her family has decorated at the temporary Oso landslide memorial. Karen and her husband, Tom, lost their daughter, two grandchildren, son-in-law and his parents in the 2014 natural disaster that took the lives of 43 people.

"Add that to the list of things I want people to know about," Karen said. "Of the 43, fifteen were veterans or active service."

Karen was one of dozens out on this cold, wet and somber day.

"It means a lot," said Dayne Brunner, "to ensure the legacy of my sister lives on and that she's never forgotten."

Brunner was here to remember his sister, Summer Raffo. And, like other family members of the victims, he was also kicking off a fund-raising effort for a permanent memorial for the victims.

The Snohomish County Parks Department unveiled its plans for the memorial that will feature a plaza and serenity trail where each of the victims will be remembered. The concept is a collaborative effort with families and county officials -- officials like Amy Lucas, who also live in the deeply affected communities along highway 530: Darrington, Oso and Arlington.

"You'll find an area where the community can gather together to remember," said Lucas, whose children went to school with many of the landslide's young victims. "But you'll also have a place where people can learn about the events, so it'll be educational as well."

The process to design this memorial, which will cost between $4 million and $6 million, was, for many, part of the healing.

"Very, very painful," Brunner said. "And everybody took turns going through their sad phases, their happy phases. And no one gets shunned at those meetings. It's therapy."

This memorial won't just be for the 43 killed -- but also for those that toiled for weeks in the mud and muck and debris looking for the victims to give the families closure.

"All those people that came out here to help and gave of themselves," said Tom Pszonka, who also lost six loved ones in the landslide. "They volunteered to be here and this site and these things that happened out here sticks with them forever."

The plan is for this area to become a place of peace, healing and resilience.

They hope to break ground within the next year and be done three years after that, in 2021.  If you'd like to donate to the effort to construct this memorial, you'll want to check out this website.