NPR Story
8:00 am
Mon March 31, 2014

One Week Later, Prayers For Landslide Victims And Stories Of Survival

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 3:26 pm

The death roll has risen to 21 following the massive landslide near Oso, Washington. But the number of missing has been lowered dramatically -- to 30.

Over the weekend, the search for victims continued. At the same time, residents in the nearby town of Darrington paused to pray and reflect.

At First Baptist Church, they prayed for the families of the victims and members of the congregation also told stories of survival.

Steve Sconce was supposed to have been fixing a roof on a house directly in the path of the landslide.

"I decided to not go on that Saturday," he says.

Instead, Sconce headed out of town to watch his son compete in a wrestling tournament. So at 10:37 when the hillside slid, Sconce was safely away from danger.

"Normally by 10 or 10:30 I would have been on that roof, helping Billy."

Billy is Billy Spillers, who's feared dead along with three of his children. Miraculously, a fourth child survived -- thanks in part to a young man sitting in another pew at First Baptist.

"It wasn't much of a question," says Isaac Hall. "If there's people there, we're going to help them out."

Hall and a buddy were driving on Highway 530 when they came across a wall of debris. The two leapt into action. Soon, they were pulling four-year-old Jacob Spillers out of the mud.

"We were just trundling along looking for anybody or anything, and looked over the site and there he was, " says Hall. "He was up to his waist and freezing cold, obviously, and crying. So we went over there and started digging him out."

A helicopter swooped down and Hall handed the boy off to safety. The rescue was captured on a video that quickly went 'round the world.

Others members of First Baptist Church in Darrinton have volunteered endless hours dishing up soup and sandwiches to rescue workers. Even so, Pastor Mike DeLuca says some in his flock wish they could have done more.

They're also asking the inevitable question: Why did this happen?

"We can't blame God for everything," says DeLuca. "We just can't. Things happen. Natural disasters happen. Volcanoes blow. Mountains slide. We just have to be ready at any moment."

DeLuca says after 37 years in Darrington, he knows the community will pull through. Even if life will never be the same.

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