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Slide Survivor Haunted By Memories Of 'Horrible, Rumbling, Wet' Sound, Guilt

AP Photo/The Herald, Dan Bates, Pool
Washington mudslide survivor Amanda Skorjanc, left, talks to the media with her partner Ty Suddarth at Harborview Medical Center, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Seattl

Amanda Skorjanc was sitting in her kitchen with her baby son, Duke, when she heard “what sounded like a truck off a rumble strip.”

“And then it continued, and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe it’s an earthquake.’ And then the light started to shake. The light started to blink,” said the 25-year-old mother.

Skorjanc looked out the side door of her Oso home, and saw nothing. Then she looked out the front door.

“It was like a movie. Houses were exploding,” she said, fighting back tears. “The next thing I see is the neighbor’s chimney coming in through our front door. And I turned and I held Duke, and I did not let him go.”

‘I Thought I Was Losing Him’

Credit Courtesy of Amanda Skorjanc and Ty Suddarth
Courtesy of Amanda Skorjanc and Ty Suddarth
Twenty four-week-old Duke Suddarth, son of Ty Suddarth and Oso mudslide victim Amanda Skorjanc, is the youngest survivor of the March 22 slide.

Skorjanc managed to hold on to her son, shielding his head against her chest, as the deluge of mud hit them.

“I know that God was with us, because as it was going, I cried out to Him and said, ‘Please, save us,”’ she said, speaking to reporters at Harborview Medical Center Wednesday.

It all happened so fast, said Skorjanc, but “it felt like forever.”

“When we finally stopped moving, I moved some stuff around. And I noticed that the couch had been broken around us, and our La-Z-Boy had been broken around us. So we were like in this little pocket, a cushioned pocket,” she said.

With her arm broken and legs trapped in mud, she could do nothing but sit and wait with her son, confused about what had just happened.

“He was dirty and a little blue, and I thought I was losing him,” she said. “I would pat on his chest, and say, ‘Stay with me, bud.’”

Then she heard sirens — what she called the “the most amazing sound I ever heard” — followed by screams of rescuers searching for survivors.

‘Every Day Is A Good Day, And Tomorrow Will Be Better’

Credit Courtesy of Amanda Skorjanc and Ty Suddarth
Courtesy of Amanda Skorjanc and Ty Suddarth
In this undated photo provided by Amanda Skorjanc and Ty Suddarth, Duke Suddarth lies near a dog.

As rescuers transported them across the field of debris, Skorjanc kept her eyes shut.

“I didn’t want to see what was going on down there. Plus I was just scared, and in so much pain,” she said.

Duke, the youngest survivor of the slide, sustained a fracture on his skull. Initially listed in critical condition, he has since been upgraded to satisfactory condition.

“He had half a mountain fall on him and he got banged up, but he’s doing better,” said the boy’s father, Ty Suddarth. “Every day is a good day, and tomorrow will be better than today.”

His mother suffered multiple fractures to her eye, arm, leg and ankle. She has undergone six surgeries since, and is now listed in satisfactory condition, though she has at least a year of recovery and extensive physical therapy ahead of her, according to her doctor.

“He’s my motivation,” Skorjanc said of her son. “Anytime I get an update on him, it motivates me even more to do my physical therapy, no matter how much it hurts, to take the pills even though I’m not a fan of’em.”

Haunting Memories

Even as her injuries start to heal, Skorjanc says the memories are hard to shake, especially echoes of the “horrible, rumbling, wet” sound that preceded the huge wave of mud.

“It sounded just like a thick river of mud. It was loud, and, I mean, your whole core just shook," she said. "The sound is unexplainable and I'll never get it out of my head." 

"Certain sounds now trigger it," she added. "If the wind blows too hard, if somebody’s driving, like pushing a (hospital) bed past me and it rumbles the floor a little bit, it brings back the same sight over and over again.”

Then there’s the guilt she feels. The March 22 slide claimed 36 lives, and 10 others remain missing.

“I’m so blessed, and at the same time, I feel — and I know I shouldn’t — but I feel guilty. I have my family, and some don’t,” she said.

Skorjanc added the letters, well-wishes and donations they've received have been overwhelming.

"I can't say thank you enough, and there are no words to say how grateful I am," she said. "We will pay it forward for the rest of our life."

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.