Mudslide survivor holding son describes terror

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Mudslide survivor holding son describes terror
Officials walk into the debris field as Washington State Governor Jay Inslee checks on progress at the site of the Oso mudslide on Thursday, May 15, 2014 in Oso, Wash. Crews are progressing on unearthing State Highway 530. Some parts of the road will have to be rebuilt after it was washed away in the march mudslide that killed 41 people and left 2 missing. (AP Photo/Seattlepi.com, Josh Trujillo, Pool)
Work crews unearth State Highway 530 as Washington State Governor Jay Inslee checks on progress at the site of the Oso mudslide on Thursday, May 15, 2014 in Oso, Wash. Crews are progressing on unearthing State Highway 530. Some parts of the road will have to be rebuilt after it was washed away in the march mudslide that killed 41 people and left 2 missing. (AP Photo/Seattlepi.com, Josh Trujillo, Pool)
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, right, and his wife Trudi walk into the mud as Inslee checks on progress at the site of the Oso mudslide on Thursday, May 15, 2014 in Oso, Wash. Crews are progressing on unearthing State Highway 530. Some parts of the road will have to be rebuilt after it was washed away in the march mudslide that killed 41 people and left 2 missing. (AP Photo/Seattlepi.com, Josh Trujillo, Pool)
OSO, WA - MARCH 27: Search and rescue teams continue to work on March 27, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide killed at least twenty-five and left many missing. (Photo by Ted S. Warren-Pool/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 27: Search and rescue teams continue to work on March 27, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide killed at least twenty-five and left many missing. (Photo by Ted S. Warren-Pool/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 27: Search and rescue teams continue to work on March 27, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide killed at least twenty-five and left many missing. (Photo by Ted S. Warren-Pool/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 27: Search and rescue teams continue to work on March 27, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide killed at least twenty-five and left many missing. (Photo by Ted S. Warren-Pool/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 25: Search and rescue workers, including firefighters from the Marysville Fire District, inspect a damaged structure in the aftermath of a mudslide on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide on March 22 has killed at least fourteen and left many missing. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 25: A search and rescue worker and canine look for survivors in the aftermath of a mudslide on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide on March 22 has killed at least fourteen and left many missing. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 25: Search and rescue workers look for survivors in the aftermath of a mudslide on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide on March 22 has killed at least fourteen and left many missing. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 25: Search and rescue workers look for survivors in the aftermath of a mudslide on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide on March 22 has killed at least fourteen and left many missing. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 25: Elaine Young hugs her dog, Bo, days after a mudslide narrowly missed her home on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. The massive mudslide killed at least fourteen and left many missing, and Young has assisted in the search and rescue efforts. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
Search workers stand with a rescue dog near a piece of heavy equipment being used to clear trees and other debris Thursday, March 27, 2014, as the search continued for victims of the massive mudslide that struck Saturday near Darrington, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
Four search and rescue workers wade through water covering Washington Highway 530 Thursday, March 27, 2014, on the eastern edge of the massive mudslide that struck Saturday near Darrington, Wash. as heavy equipment moves trees and other debris in the background. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
Search and rescue workers probe the water covering Washington Highway 530, Thursday, March 27, 2014, on the eastern edge of the massive mudslide that struck Saturday near Darrington, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
A military helicopter flies Thursday, March 27, 2014, over mud and debris from the massive mudslide that struck Saturday near Darrington, Wash. Search and recovery work continued throughout the day. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
Search and rescue workers stand near a house surrounded by debris Tuesday, March 25, 2014, on the western edge of the massive mudslide that struck near Arlington, Wash. on Saturday, killing at least 14 people and leaving dozens missing. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
A search and rescue worker stands in the middle of debris from a house Tuesday, March 25, 2014, on the western edge of the massive mudslide that struck near Arlington, Wash., on Saturday, killing at least 14 people and leaving dozens missing. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
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SEATTLE (AP) - The lights in Amanda Skorjanc's home started to flicker and shake. When she looked outside, she saw a cascade of mud and debris crashing down the hillside and nearby houses "exploding" from its force.

Moments earlier she was watching videos with her infant son, and now she saw a neighbor's chimney barreling toward her door. Skorjanc gripped her son tightly and turned away.

"I held onto that baby like it was the only purpose that I had," she said. "I did not let that baby go for one second."

When it was over, the powerful mudslide had destroyed Skorjanc's entire rural Washington community, killing at least 36 people and destroying dozens of homes.

Skorjanc and her baby were among the few pulled from the rubble alive. On Wednesday, the 25-year-old mother gave her first interview about the March 22 ordeal from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she remains hospitalized.

Skorjanc is starting to recover physically from several broken bones and six surgeries, but she and her doctor acknowledged the emotional healing will take a very long time. Certain sounds bring Skorjanc right back to that frightening Saturday morning.

"If the wind blows too hard. If someone is pushing a bed past me, and it rumbles the floor a bit. It brings back the same sight over and over again," Skorjanc told a pool of reporters from The Daily Herald, KOMO-TV and KIRO Radio.

When the earth stopped moving after the mudslide, Skorjanc was trapped in a pocket formed by her damaged couch and pieces of her roof. She had two broken legs and a broken arm.

Skorjanc said she called out to God to save her and her baby and prayed rescuers would arrive quickly and find them.

"I started to hear sirens - the most amazing sound I ever heard," she said.

Skorjanc remembers hearing the voices of several men coming to her aid. They lifted her son from her arms and cut her from the debris.

"I had my eyes closed," Skorjanc remembers. "I didn't want to see what was going on. I was scared and in so much pain."

One of her ankles was crushed and might not recover fully. She also suffered injuries to her face, including an eye socket. Her doctor said she will need to be off her feet for another 10 weeks, then likely will struggle to start walking again.

Skorjanc said she considered the destroyed community of Oso home, although she grew up in Indiana and has lived in Washington for just the past two years. But she has no plans to return to the rural community 55 miles northeast of Seattle, not even for a visit.

She said she struggles with guilt daily, because she has her family - including her partner, Ty Suddarth, the father of her child - and others who lived in Oso don't. Suddarth had left the house to run an errand when the mudslide hit.

Dr. Daphne Beinggessner, a University of Washington orthopedic surgeon, operated on Skorjanc three times and estimated her physical injuries will take a year or more to heal.

She added that the recovery of Skorjanc's son, Duke Suddarth, seems to be really making a difference in the young mother's improvement: "As he's been getting better, she's been getting better."

Skorjanc said she will work hard to get better to be there for her son, who is being treated at Seattle Children's Hospital. She said his injuries included a skull fracture. "He's my motivation."

The rest of her energy will go toward giving back to the community.

"I'm so overwhelmed with the amount of love and support we get every day," Skorjanc said. "We will pay it forward for the rest of our lives."

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