DARRINGTON — Dignitaries from throughout the county and state converged on Darrington Aug. 7 to celebrate the role of Washington State University in facilitating the community's recovery from the March 22 Oso slide.
WSU Snohomish County Extension Office Director Curt Moulton cited the university's partnerships with county government. He credited the county's Trade and Economic Development department, the North County Community Resource Center, the U.S. Forest Service and Workforce Snohomish.
Moulton cited the roles of the latter two groups in working with younger volunteers, before praising U.S. senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray for their legislative efforts to bolster the local economy. He then played a video in which WSU interns Elizabeth Norris and Anna Larson expressed their appreciation at being able to return to Darrington, where they'd grown up, to pitch in on behalf of their community.
"WSU was an amazing partner from early on in the process," Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said. "They helped us meet needs we hadn't even conceived of, and started us thinking about the next steps to recovery."
"Between its tuition and internship programs, I'm really pleased by how much WSU came forward," Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin said. "They've helped us build a road to the future."
WSU President Elson Floyd noted that the university had offered tuition waivers as a form of relief to those impacted by the slide.
"The strength of this state is in its human resources, and there is no stronger cohort that I've met in my life than exists here in this community," said Floyd, who deemed the Darrington and Arlington communities "symbiotic" in their relationship. "WSU is a full and complete partner that will do everything possible to lend a hand. This is a long-term commitment."
County Executive Jon Lovick deemed WSU's relief efforts an example of the many acts of kindness he's seen in response to the Oso slide, and repeated his anecdote of receiving a card from a middle school student in Wisconsin, with a $5 bill to contribute to the recovery.
"That five-dollar bill has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars by inspiring others," Lovick said. "I think we underestimate the love that exists for this community."
While Lovick touted the roles played by Snohomish Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots and Oso Fire Chief Willy Harper, Rankin embraced Tolbert in a hug as he spoke about how their two communities have come together.
"We became united, and when the road reopened and our communication lines were restored, that unity only expanded," Rankin said.
"It would have been hard to imagine, all those months ago, that we would be here, celebrating all that we've accomplished," Tolbert said. "I've been touched to see so many youths taking part in this, because while lots of money has been donated, that doesn't always help with the healing. We're grateful to WSU for sending its intellectual assets to us."