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Mudslide survivor holding son describes terror


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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Linda April 10 2014 at 6:11 AM

Wishing you and your son a speedy recovery. It is amazing you both survived......only by the Grace of God as the saying goes. Wow......you two were very very lucky to survive that horrible day. Get better!

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mielkele Linda April 10 2014 at 8:03 AM

Are you saying that God chose for all the others to die and for she and her child to live? I think your very lucky statement is more realistic.

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rcnietz April 10 2014 at 7:26 AM

I am praying foryour healing emotionally as well as physically...the shock must have been terrible. It sounds like you have some symptoms of PTSD as well as Survivor's Guilt. I would pray you would find counselors who will help you work through this as you heal. So glad you held tight to that baby, and am so sorry you lost Ty and your neighbors. God bless you and the baby, Amanda. I too believe you survived for a reason.

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sylvabugg2 rcnietz April 10 2014 at 7:48 AM

The father of the child Ty, survived. He had left earlier to run some errands. "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."

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Helen April 10 2014 at 7:20 AM

May God bless you and your son as you continue to heal.

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Ashleigh April 10 2014 at 7:14 AM

God answers prayers! Bless her and her baby. Good mom! Prayers for a speedy recovery.

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1 reply
ace Ashleigh April 10 2014 at 11:42 AM

So I guess what you are saying is the ones that died didn't pray fast enough or loud enough for God to save them.

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dapell April 10 2014 at 7:46 AM

I just cannot even to begin to imagine the horror of this experience God Bless you, your son and all those who rescued you and are working with you on your road to recovery both physically and emotionally.

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scarlett1548 April 10 2014 at 6:41 AM

Gos Bkess her & her Son

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1 reply
scarlett1548 scarlett1548 April 10 2014 at 6:42 AM

GOD BLESS

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mindylou April 10 2014 at 6:40 AM

may God bless you both....you and your son. it was mean't to be that you both survive this terrible tragedy. i hope you both improve with each day.

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1 reply
ace mindylou April 10 2014 at 11:50 AM

Pure LUCK

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Cool Breeze April 10 2014 at 6:34 AM

Ms Skorjanc, God bless you and your son. Get well soon.

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suncruzma April 10 2014 at 7:52 AM

Words are hard to buy such a devasting moment and the horror you felt. I pray for all the surviors of that day. May you all heal and mend. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

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klirjmk59 April 10 2014 at 6:14 AM

Prayers for Both you and your Son. God Bless and Keep you Safe, well and protected in his loving arms. Amen

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1 reply
ace klirjmk59 April 10 2014 at 12:13 PM

And the Hell with the ones that died, no prays for them

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