Opinion

Massive landslide brought out the best in people | Publisher's column

This week, I had a front-row seat to the awesome power of Mother Nature, and the best part of humankind.

Since Feb. 11 I’ve been living in a home in Ledgewood Beach.

It was a temporary place while I searched for something more permanent.

From the huge living room window, I enjoyed watching the ferry crossing between Keystone and Port Townsend. I also got into the habit of scouting for the occasional submarine.

The view was spectacular.

At about 4 a.m. Wednesday I was awakened by what sounded like a sonic boom — like something was thrown against the house.

I opened up the door, looked out back, listened and decided what I was hearing was thunder.

“Odd, no lightning,” I thought, closed the door and went back to bed.

Minutes later, a fire engine pulled in front of the house, a bright light shining in my bedroom window. Eventually, a firefighter came to my door and explained there’d been a large landslide, and it was still active.

I went to my back door again, watched the firefighter walk toward the center of the back yard and then stop. I scanned the water, noting the lights across the water, and thought, “what a beautiful night.”

Then I noticed.

Even through the darkness, I could see trees that had once blocked a portion of the marine view were gone.

After voicing an expletive, I heard another chunk of hillside slide away and trees snapping in the night.

It was time to leave.

Later that day, I returned knowing that I would never sleep another night in the Ledgewood house. I was moving.

Next door, my neighbor was packing out his belongings, his own house now sidled up to the edge of a cliff. I walked to the back fence in my yard and looked down to see bare dirt where trees and brush once covered the hillside.

I’m grateful to those who gave their time to help me with my own move. They didn’t have to.

In a short amount of time, I had a small team helping me. A couple of Ledgewood residents jumped in to help, and others offered their assistance.

In a matter of hours, we filled a 26-foot U-Haul to the rafters.

Over the next couple of days. One woman stopped to just ask if I was OK.

One neighbor made sure I knew there was food at the nearby fire hall, and that arrangements could be made for me to stay as a guest in someone’s home if I had nowhere to go.

Firefighters kept track of who was inside which house, and kept an eye on the slide area for signs of movement.

They were friendly and did a great job keeping people informed.

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson emailed offering some storage space and a place to stay if I needed one. A very kind gesture.

I was lucky, however. The property managers who got me into the Ledgewood house, Brad and Karen Jaeger, went above and beyond to find me a nice place to live the same day of the landslide. They made the transition easy — seamless, in fact.

Sadly, there are some who may never be able to live in their homes again.

Amidst the disaster, though, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that nobody was killed.

And for the thoughtfulness and help of others, I am extremely fortunate and thankful.

Keven R. Graves is executive editor and publisher of the Whidbey News-Times. His email is kgraves@whidbeynewstimes.com

 

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