- AARON HOLLANDER "It's just chaos. It takes forever to walk anywhere."
Four days ago, a massive chunk of hill in Oso, Wash., slid down into Stillaguamish River and buried around 30 homes. So far, 24 humans are officially dead, eight of the dead are still in the mud, and it's possible some of the dead will never be exhumed. This is the stuff of nightmares.
"I really thought I was prepared for this," says Aaron Hollander, a volunteer from Arlington. "I had two years training for search and rescue. I've done disaster scenarios… The big difference between the training and what I have seen out there is just the scale. Nothing could prepare me for how massive it is."
He was heading to a second shift at the disaster site today when we talked. "It's just chaos. It takes forever to walk anywhere. It's like you are walking through four feet of snow. These are my third pair of pants today."
The bottom of his clean pants are duct-taped to his hiking boots. Behind him is an old-fashioned white community center, flags at half mast, and the local fire station where volunteers have been signing up to help (you must be from the area, have some amount of training or familiarity with the terrain, and, most importantly, health insurance—this is dangerous work). At a press conference today, officials said they do not need any more help right now.
"I do have a friend who is missing," Hollander says. "It's impossible for anyone around here not be affected. Everyone knows everyone along this this road [Highway 530]. Their kids went to the same school in Arlington. Even those in Darrington." That town is now practically isolated. The mud covered the road, the lifeline of this region. Presently, Hollander explains, the only other way to get there from here is to go to Bellingham and make your way down. "Yeah, there are people [in Darrington] who can't get to work in Arlington without making a long journey. They are pretty much stuck."