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Oso anniversary: Keeping the faith after landslide disaster

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OSO -- Sometimes in life, we have to choose to believe.

“There’s still a giant reminder of why we are here in the first place,” says Joel Johnson.

That all is not lost.

“I can even remember hearing that on the radio: it's gone, everything is gone,’ says Joel.

The kind of faith that can move mountains.

“Immediately you get the why. Questions like why did this happen? Why did this have to happen? Why is this person gone? Why couldn’t it have happened on another hill where there wasn’t homes? And that’s the toughest question for any of us, as a human, is the why?,” says Joel.

When the ground gave way below them, the people of Oso found their footing from somewhere within. As Chaplain, Joel Johnson, provided that emotional stability. He helped the people of Oso find common ground. He remained strong and steadfast, because that’s what people needed.

“Sometimes the most effective thing we can do is put our arm around them and cry with them. Sit there and hold them, sit there and listen. I’m digging alongside family members, friends, community members that knew these people that we’re trying to find,” says Joel.

He helped recover the youngest victim of the slide; a four month old baby.

“I happened to be right there, when we actually recovered Sonoah and…. that was a very difficult one because here I have a new baby at home. Here’s this precious little one, that we’ve recovered and I can remember…. We were hoping it was going to be a doll, you know, we just wanted it to be a doll. And not what we thought it was,” says Joel.

What most people didn’t realize, is that Joel’s own baby girl was in the fight of her life.

“She was born with pulmonary stenosis, so the pulmonary valve didn’t open,” says Joel.

There were many surgeries and hospital stays. Day after day, he would return to Oso.

“Without Brianna taking care of everything here, she never once made me think twice about going to help, like, we knew that was what we should do for that time. And we’d make the sacrifices necessary,” says Joel.

During this time, Joel’s family leaned on their faith. And his daughter is now 5 years old. The Johnson’s now call Oso home.

“In my 33 years of life, I don’t believe in coincidences. There’s a reason why I responded on the morning I responded. There’s a reason why I decided to stay. It’s home because of the people. And I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to be here,” says Joel.

Sometimes in life, we have no choice but to believe.

“We pray every night before bed that one day we’ll hear the words from the doctor that your heart is fine. You don’t have to come back anymore,”says Joel.

That all is not lost.

“Oso is strong,” says Joel.

The kind of faith, that can move mountains.

“Faith is not knowing what’s ahead, but knowing that, at the end of the day we are going to be brought through it. Having peace in the midst of chaos. And that’s what sustains us moving forward. It tells the story and it will tell the story forever,” says Joel.

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