Hundreds gathered on Highway 530 for a memorial ceremony Sunday morning marking the one-year anniversary of the Oso landslide.

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After a moment of silence was observed at 10:37 a.m. Sunday, a bell rang out 43 times, one for each victim of a deadly landslide that struck the community of Oso exactly one year earlier on March 22, 2014.

Hundreds of people gathered at the site on Highway 530 for a memorial ceremony. It marked one year since the devastating landslide and served as a way to remember the victims and, attendees said, reflect as a community.

 A year later


A look back

Click the photo above to see The Seattle Times’ complete coverage of the Oso landslide, including investigative stories, profiles of the victims, interactive maps and a photo gallery.

“No one ever asked, ‘What about me?’ ” said Bellevue Fire Department Lt. Richard Burke, who spoke at the ceremony. “That doesn’t happen every day. It was pretty special. People have asked me, ‘What was the toughest day?’ And I tell them, ‘It was the day I left.’ ”

A portion of Highway 530 was closed for three hours Sunday morning for the ceremony. Dozens of first responders and community members gathered on the west and east side of the slide and then walked on the highway to the site. Many first responders were dressed in the uniforms they wore a year ago.

Before the bell ringing, a large flag that had remained at half-mast since the slide was raised, as a symbol of a new beginning, Burke said.

“We’re going to go on after today,” he said.

After the ceremony, attendees stayed on the roadway, greeting each other with tearful hellos and hugs. Others walked among the 43 trees that were planted in honor of the victims.

“With all the people here, you get the full effect of what went on,” said Luke Larsson, the son-in-law of Gail and Ron Thompson, whose home was destroyed in the slide.

Sandy Larsson, Luke’s wife and the Thompsons’ daughter, added: “You see how this is sacred ground. This brings the community together. We’ll always be a community together.”

Other events, including a potluck at the Darrington Community Center and open houses at the Oso Fire Station and Darrington Fire Department, were held Sunday afternoon. A day before, the Darrington Library dedicated its meeting room to Linda McPherson, 69, who was killed in the slide. McPherson was a longtime manager at the library and had worked to get the community room built.

On Saturday night, Rhodes River Ranch in Arlington held a benefit concert and live auction with proceeds going to those affected by the landslide and toward administrative costs of disbursing the funds.

At the Oso Fire Station, Chief Willy Harper and Assistant Chief Toby Hyde reflected on the events of the day one year before. They remember a lot of confusion, questions and emotions.

The volunteer firefighters said it was important for community members and first responders to see the area again, as a form of closure.

“Now they’ll be able to remember it in a different way,” Hyde said. “For some of the people, when they last left, they were covered in mud.”

Harper said the volunteer firefighters pass through the slide site on the way to incidents often, and when they do, the conversations in the truck subside for a moment.

“It’s quiet when you get out there,” Harper said. “It still takes you back to that day.”

Later Sunday evening, a few people remained at the site in the rain. They gazed at where the hill gave way, all the way down to the 43 trees.

“It’s a heavy place,” Hyde said. “Hopefully people will always see that. The scar will be there for a long time.”