Oso 10 years later: The day the earth moved

OSO, Wash. — Friday, we are remembering the day the earth moved in the little town of Oso, with deadly consequences.

A decade later, Oso remains the single deadliest landside in U.S. history.

If you were here on Mar. 22, 2014, you likely have not forgotten the catastrophe that forever altered the landscape along the Stillaguamish River and entered the history books.

>>Stories, video and photos: Oso landslide: 10 years later

The statistics are staggering: 43 people killed, 49 structures, including homes, destroyed.

The disaster was felt across the state and the nation.

From the start, it was a calamity that was nearly incomprehensible.

“There’s like a mudslide and everything is gone,” said a caller to 911. “The houses are gone. I’ve got people here screaming for help.”

Baffling, even to a seasoned 911 operator.

“You know that they’re inside the house still?” asked the 911 operator.

“Yes,” said the caller. “I’m standing at the location right now. And I can hear them tapping underneath.”

The Oso landslide hit at 10:47 on the morning of March 22nd, 2014. It was a typical Saturday, until it suddenly wasn’t.

“I thought we’re having one hellacious earthquake,” said Bobbi Aylesworth.

“I was on the bed,” said Bob Aylesworth. “And the bed went thataway. And I ended up in the closet.”

We talked to Bob and Bobbi Aylesworth 11 days after the unimaginable: a rain-soaked hill collapsing into a mountain of mud and debris, sweeping away everything in its path.

The casualties included their home of 38 years in Oso’s Steelhead neighborhood.

“And I felt the force on my back,” recalled Bobbi. “And I kinda remember swishing this way and that way. And then I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up. I was just really bruised. And I couldn’t move. And I just started praying.”

They lived to describe their ordeal. Others weren’t so lucky.

“When he left here at 10:30 yesterday morning, the plan was that he’d be back by noon,” said Barbara Welsh. “Well, he hasn’t come back yet.”

And Bill Welsh would never come back. He was helping a plumber friend install a water heater for a new Oso homeowner when they, too, were swallowed up. His wife, Barbara, a widow, in an instant.

In all, 43 people died in the hours after the earth moved in Oso.

“Very few Americans ever heard of “awe-so” before disaster,” said then-President Barack Obama.

A tragedy so enormous, one month to the day, it inspired a sitting President, still struggling with the name of a community many here had never heard of, either.

“We’ve all been inspired by how the community has come together,” said Obama. “Michelle and I grieve with you. Our country will be with you every step of the way.”

Ten years later, Oso stands as a vivid reminder of the power of the natural forces that make the Pacific Northwest such a unique part of this vast country. Beautiful, but treacherous, potentially deadly, too.

March 22, 2014 is not exactly a day that lives in infamy. But it is day that is unforgettable nonetheless for those of us who were here.