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A Year After Deadly Mudslide, Oso Remembers And Heals

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

One year ago, a mudslide washed over a square mile of land in the small town of Oso, Wash. It killed 43 people and destroyed dozens of houses. Bonnie Rose manages a restaurant and a ranch in Oso. Last year, we talked to her about a week after the mudslide. At that point, the Rhodes River Ranch was serving as a kind of community center for survivors.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BONNIE ROSE: We just wanted to be out here and ready in case that any volunteers need to be fed. We're holding clothing, bedding, household items until people are ready to start over again...

MCEVERS: Wow...

ROSE: ...Because they've lost everything.

MCEVERS: We called Bonnie Rose on this anniversary to see how people are doing.

ROSE: Nobody can believe that a year's gone by already. And on the other hand, it feels like it's been forever, because there's different levels of healing. There's times when you can feel the love and the compassion from everybody around you, but there's still some times when it's really fresh and you just break down and cry. You know, it's very intense, and then whenever any of us have to drive through the slide sites, it always brings a pang.

MCEVERS: That landslide was the deadliest in U.S. history. Some of Bonnie Rose's regular customers died, but she says their families still come into the restaurant for dinner.

ROSE: When we see each other, we still go up and hug each other. It's probably one of the most friendliest restaurants around because when we see each other, it's the gift that we get another day and we get to hug each other.

MCEVERS: Today, at the ranch, there will be a big memorial.

ROSE: We have just a huge set up and stage production. And it's going to be an incredible vocal concert, just to have people come and enjoy the music, relax, remember our friends and neighbors and loved ones that we lost a year ago. And it's just all about community spirit and kind of nurturing that feeling.

MCEVERS: Bonnie Rose says she's expecting about 1,200 people. Proceeds will go to the Oso Fire Association and the fire department. A bill is moving through the Washington statehouse that would improve mapping of landslide prone areas. People in Oso who lost their homes are still adjusting.

ROSE: People are trying to carry on and there's a lot of folks that are trying to find property and homes and building as close as they can be to where that they had their other homes, and other people are choosing to move farther away because it's really stressful. So there's all different levels of healing. And some people are still suffering medical traumas and so - I mean, it's an ongoing - this healing process is going to take years.

MCEVERS: Bonnie Rose says one Oso resident planted yellow daffodils as a memorial, and they've now started to pop up around town.

ROSE: It's bittersweet, you know. It's really hard to talk about sometimes. And then there's other times when you realize how lucky that you are because you just met 200 new friends that all give you a support hug anytime you need it. So that's part of our healing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.