530 slide prayer service brings tears and emotion

ARLINGTON, Wash. -- After two weeks of struggle, worry, and heartbreak, the combined communities of Darrington, Arlington and Oso had a chance to grieve and remember.

Friday night around 200 people filled Arlington's Haller Middle School gym, including Governor Jay Inslee and leaders from 30 different churches for an interdenominational prayer service honoring the victims, families and rescuers affected by the deadly March 22 mudslide in Oso.

Pastor Mike Zachman of Point Church encouraged people to let the tears flow. "If you've lost a loved one, to let it out, to let what you're feeling out," he said.

Others thanked first responders and the fire chaplains who not only had to service those victims who were found in the mud of Oso, but also to wade through terrible conditions in order to do their difficult job.

Pastor Ralph Fry of Stanwood said comfort can be found in faith and the community. His voice cracked as he talked about the children and teens who died in the slide. He openly asked why a loving God could do this. "And my answer is always the same as it is today. I don't know," Fry said.

The audience twice gave standing ovations to first responders who continue to search the debris for missing people.

"Nobody, and I mean nobody, could be prepared for what we encountered," Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman told the crowd.

As of Friday, the toll stood at 30 people dead and 13 missing in the landslide that buried the community of Oso, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

The first funerals and memorial services begin Saturday and will hopefully start the slow process of closure as the cleanup and recovery continues.