Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What I am thinking

So I think I am finished talking about the sad news of the landslide. I have been thinking about things I would like to do before I leave Logan for Texas. The list changes every time but just so you know and maybe you could help me achieve some of them.

  • travel to the surrounding areas in the valley and take pictures. For example, Avon, Paradise, Wellsville, Hyrum, Richmond, etc... I thought it would be kind of funny to take pictures of the welcome to so and so signs.
  • get new batteries for camera and take pictures of friends.
  • I would like to attend the opera but it isn't a big deal
  • I would like to go to the Utah Theater on Center Street (it has been closed for renovations for over a year, shouldn't they be done yet?!)
  • tube down the canal
That is just a few of the things I would like to do. Maybe one day, I will be smart enough to write something down when I want to do it. I am not sure when that day will be but when I do, I am sure it will be a long list.

Canyon Road Tragedy: These were our people

I have a friend, John Godfrey, who lives in Salt Lake City and he emailed me this story. After you read it, I will tell you how I felt about it.

Canyon Road tragedy: These were our people

By Devin Felix
Sunday, July 19, 2009 2:33 AM CDT
As I waded through cold, muddy streets near Canyon Road with a notebook and video camera, I thought I was walking into a story about flooding and water and some damaged homes.

But when authorities said that a house had collapsed and there were people inside, the story changed. It was no longer about an inconvenient bit of water and some flooded basements: Now it was the story of a mother and two children in peril — or worse.

It had gone from natural disaster to potential tragedy, and it now had the attention of thousands of people all across Utah.

Through the rest of that long Saturday and into the night, I waited for more information, along with dozens of other members of the news media who had converged on Logan. Authorities told us at midnight that the three were probably dead and authorities were calling off the search for the night. It was now a body search rather than a rescue operation, they said.

As the days passed, the parking lot of the church on Lauralin Drive served as a base camp for a small army of reporters, photographers and camera crews.

It was the type of media vigil that often takes place at the scene of a gripping, ongoing news story. No one wanted to leave for fear that important information would happen while they were gone, leaving them as the only news agency without crucial information.

The reporters were cordial and friendly but remained guarded to avoid revealing information that might give a competitor an edge.

I felt a twinge of guilt similar to what I had felt watching neighbors haul sandbags to help friends fight back oncoming water while I stood by filming them. A young family was most likely dead. Dozens of people were putting their lives at risk to find them. Families were mourning. And my concern was trying to beat the reporters from Salt Lake.

I felt a sense of local pride. After living five years in Logan, this was my town. These were my searchers and neighbors and victims. This road and this mud and even this murdering hillside were mine, and I felt it was my job to tell their story.

As the days and the search wore on, all thoughts were on finding the bodies of the three people killed in the slide. Soon, they were given names: Jacqueline, Abbey and Victor. With their names known, they were no longer just “the victims.” They were neighbors and aunts and students and friends.

We learned grim details: The earth struck so hard it knocked the house 20 feet off its foundation. The force of such landslides is comparable to an airliner crash. The chances that they weren’t actually in the house at the time were slim.

Over and over, my mind tried to play out that moment Saturday shortly before noon. What did it sound like? Had they suffered?

It was my job to ask these questions and to piece together what happened at that moment, but that didn’t make it any more pleasant.

The weather during the four days of the search was pleasant. Young families strolled hand-in-hand past the news vans and cameras and into the nearby park as the sun dipped and a gentle breeze cooled the skin. Not far away, men and women overturned piles of dark and dripping mud, searching for bodies.

On Monday night, I sat by the side of the road, stressed and frantically typing on my laptop to finish an article I’d been working on all day about children displaced by the landslide.

That’s when I heard the familiar sound of a bicycle horn. I looked up from my screen. The horn sounded again as Cache Valley’s most recognizable figure, “Bicycle” Brent Carpenter came around the corner on his bike.

He wore a pink “Veggie Tales” backpack and his traditional ill-fitting baseball cap. As always, he honked his horn and waved to everyone he passed, smiling from ear to ear.

Most of the distracted Salt Lake news men and women barely noticed him pass. One or two gave confused waves in return. I called out to him by name and waved.

He rode by again and again, honking and waving and smiling the whole time. I waved back every time until he finally disappeared around the corner. Not far away, men and women turned over shovels of dark and dripping mud, searching for the bodies of Jacqueline, Abbey and Victor.

Brent’s smile and wave came at a time of death and damage, but they didn’t seem out of place. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that, despite his limited mental capacity, Brent Carpenter is a symbol of everything good about Cache Valley. He’s a traveling salesman of cheer, and he gives his wares away for free. He found just the right spot to bring them Monday night.

Surely, this tragedy belonged most of all to the family and friends of Jacqueline, Abbey and Victor. But as Brent rode out of sight, I realized that it also belonged to Logan and to all of Cache Valley.

Despite statewide attention, this was our story. These were our searchers and neighbors and victims. These were our people.

I really enjoyed hearing what others think of situations. I will miss Bicycle Brent when I move back to Texas but I will forever be grateful to him. He has always put a smile on my face and I always wave back to him. If there were more people like him, I think this world would be such a happier place to be.

I am also grateful for Mr. Devin Felix to write these words. It is a tragic accident that happened but hopefully we will grow from it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

This I listened to today and I started to cry at the library. It is some the 911 calls about the landslide that happened on Saturday July 11. Take a listen for yourself.


On this related story, I looked up on cachevalleynews.com and found this updating story about the family that was buried under the landslide.

Crews find bodies of 3 missing after Utah mudslide

LOGAN, Utah (AP) — Searchers have recovered the body of the third and final person missing after a weekend mudslide destroyed a northern Utah home.

Officials announced Tuesday evening they found the body of 13-year-old Victor Alanis in the rubble and debris. The bodies of Victor's mother, 43-year-old Evelia Jacqueline Leavey, and sister, 12-year-old Abbey Alanis, were recovered earlier in the day.

The search for Leavey and her children began Saturday afternoon after an avalanche of mud and water swept down a hillside in Logan and buried most of their home.

Fire Department spokeswoman Liz Hunsaker says 15 homes were evacuated after the slide and firefighters had to carry children from some homes.

No one else was reported missing or injured in the slide.

**The search for Leavey and her children began Saturday afternoon after an avalanche of mud and water swept down a hillside in Logan and buried most of the home.

More than 20 feet of mud covered parts of the home and crews had to use heavy equipment to shore up an unstable hillside.

The fire department evacuated 15 homes after the slide, with firefighters carrying out children from some homes.

Eight homes were flooded and 11 others had damage to their yards from mud and debris. There were no other reports of injuries.

Officials have said they do not yet know the cause of the slide.

Earlier Tuesday, a spokesman for the victims' family released a statement thanking those who are helping in the search efforts.

The family also said it is staying strong and asked for privacy.**

It is sad but I am glad it is over!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Still searching

Today was a my second news conference I have attended since the mudslide/landslide that occurred on Saturday, July 11, 2009. It is really heart breaking to hear but glad to hear it. I hope that makes sense. The following is a statement made at the news conference I just attended at 5:30pm.

Statement from Mayor Randy Watts - City of Logan

First of all, out of respect for the family I will not be taking any questions, but will give a brief statement.

As mayor of Logan City, and as a representative of the good people of this community, as well as its employees, I'm coming to the media to let you know I couldn't be more proud of the people behind the scenes of this unfortunate tragedy. I will be forever grateful to our emergency responders, our public works personnel, the CERT team, our volunteers and everyone else who has in any way contributed to this operation.

I would also like to thank Bear River Health Department, Cache County, and the State of Utah for all of its support. The visit of Lt. Governor Herbert had a calming effect on the family, and our workers felt supported from the highest levels of government.

I'm also grateful for the efforts of the Mt Logan Stake and all of their congregations. They have truely stepped up to the plate by providing over 1000 volunteers who have largely restored most of the impacted neighborhoods. As some of you many know, I lived for 25 yeas in the Island area, not more than a couple of doors down from this very spot. I love the people of this neighborhood like family and couldn't be more proud of their concern for each other.

It is with mixed feelings that I find it my duty to report that we have this afternoon recovered the bodies of Jacqueline Leavey - the mother, and her daughter Abbey Alanis. The search continues for the second child, Victor Alanis. My mixed emotions are the result of gratitude that our workers were able to bring partial closure for the family, but that gratitude is certainly tempered by the pain we all feel for this family's loss. Additional updates will be provided as warranted, please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers as well as the safety of our workers as they continue recovery efforts on the site. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Moving continued

I have finally decided that I am moving to Texas. I swore that I would never go back but if it is free than heck yes. I am sad to leave my friends here but hopefully we will keep in contact.

There are a few things I would like to do before I leave here.
  • I would like to make it up the wind caves.
  • Go to the Rexburg Temple
  • Eat at Big Juds
  • go fluming
  • tube down the Logan River
  • take pictures of everything I do and with everyone I know
  • go to the White Owl bar and eat a yummy hamburger
  • Go to Lagoon

I think that is a really good list for now. As I think about what else there is to do and what I want to do, then the list will be continued.

I am blessed to have met such wonderful people the years I have been here. I do think however, that I need to be close to family. I actually kind of miss having holiday festivals with them.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm Moving!

It is time for me to move on out of the valley and Utah in general. Although, I have made the best of friends and will miss them dearly. I love you all.. I will let you know when and where I am moving but it is coming soon. Either Texas or Georgia. More to come soon...