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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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SCARLET April 10 2014 at 11:03 AM

i will pray for the suiviers& their families god be with them.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
olushadeemma April 10 2014 at 11:44 AM

i wish you a great deal of recovery and may the Lord who saved you grant you and your son the quick recovery you all so deserve and may comfort come to the families of those who didn't make it...

Flag Reply +5 rate up
d.craig11 April 10 2014 at 11:55 AM

I lived close to there in Concrete, from 1989-1997, and between Rockport and Darrington for a year. I hiked over that Hazel Hill area a few times to look at the other slides in the past. The hills are sand dunes. The area has been logged off twice, but the trees there now ,offer very little root support to the ground.
There were many, many warnings to people not to live there, because of the slide danger.
There is also a town that is built on top of a 400 year old slide on Mount Rainier. They have emergency drills regularly. (I really don't know how that would help.)

Saying that, I myself got wiped out living on the bank of the Skagit River just outside of Concrete in 1995. Heavy rains caused the 3 dams upriver to open the flood gates and wiped out Cape Horn, Hamilton, Lyman, and Mt. Vernon had to sandbag everything downtown, with log jambs at every bridge.
Its happened a few times since then. The towns put their houses on 8 foot stilts, and sometimes THAT isn't enough! I gathered what was left , lived in my truck and camper for 2 yrs, and finally moved to Reno, NV in 1997. I live s at 5000 feet now. LOL

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Perfectface1 April 10 2014 at 9:44 AM

so happy this 25 yr old mother and her child is safe. God bless those rescue team .

Flag Reply +6 rate up
judypiano April 10 2014 at 9:42 AM

I am so sorry for all of these people affected by this mudslide. Hearing this story just brings it back. We are also reliving some of the Boston Marathon's victims events. Makes me thank God for what I have and brings lots of prayers to God to be by these people's side and help them get better. Amen.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
mercymfa April 10 2014 at 11:57 AM

God is good. God bless you and your baby.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
nojohnnyno mercymfa April 10 2014 at 12:03 PM

God is Good? What about the 36 other people. Your statement is absurd

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
mraiman127 nojohnnyno April 10 2014 at 12:12 PM

mercymfa was commenting specifically to the fact that Mom and baby were saved, not referring to the tragic deaths. Please think it through before you comment.

Flag +4 rate up
sweetdreams7554 April 10 2014 at 11:04 AM

There is NOTHING like a Mother's love. God bless you Sweetie and know that your little one is here because of you ! Job well done Mama !

Flag Reply +18 rate up
myirishrose4u April 10 2014 at 9:21 AM

Reading this story brang me to tears, the mother and child are doing well, God bless the both of them. What a courageous mom and she held n for her little son. God will bless you and bring you much happiness in life

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
gwynnkate myirishrose4u April 10 2014 at 10:04 AM

OPEN QUESTION; Why does this site tell me i have voted, when nothing shows, and am preety sure i had not?
just curious ? thank you.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ace myirishrose4u April 10 2014 at 10:40 AM

I doubt it

Flag Reply 0 rate up
lmmv506 April 10 2014 at 9:18 AM

I can't imagine, even for a second the horror..and strength this Mom felt at that moment..it takes a terrible situation as this to remind me..that my life issues are absolutely minimal compared to those who have lost everything including their families..and some their own lives..

Flag Reply +5 rate up
mumsy13 April 10 2014 at 9:11 AM

Life is so rare and precious. There are no atheists in foxholes, would apply here. Crying out in a time of need is a basic human response which has been with us forever. God is not dead, ask any veteran who has been in combat. Mankind makes all kinds of decisions...some good, but many not so good. God gave us freewill to mak; decisions. God did not build those houses on the side of an unstable area, man did. Kudos to the Mum that protected her young one; another basic human response. Gee, do you think there is a connection here?

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
ace mumsy13 April 10 2014 at 10:42 AM

Yes, there is no God

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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