Very, very moving day at the Oso firehouse, control central for the huge recovery effort, at the Acupuncturist Without Borders supported clinic. We ended up doing 11 treatments at the community acupuncture station, which was a nice steady stream, not overwhelming, but we definitely felt appreciated. We treated mainly responders and volunteers, and they wanted to talk, share, and decompress.
The cameraderie at the firehouse was beautiful to behold, especially with so many agencies involved. The atmosphere was supportive, peaceful, and loosely but effectively organized. The Fire Chief and the leaders are so young, so friendly, just a great inclusive style. People were engaged in their tasks, whether that was just checking in with people stopping by, dealing with administration, managing the enormous amount of supplies that are showing up there regularly, or debriefing in small causal circles. And there was a lot of hanging and chatting. Everyone was friendly- happy to talk, share, and give and receive support. There was some breaking down, and as always after a huge event, the focus of every conversation was the slide, the aftermath, and the rescue efforts. People have no room for anything else. People were coping with their grief by helping each other cope.
The acupuncture clinic had been set up by volunteers with Acupuncturists Without Borders, an amazing effort and really well done. The ear acupuncture connects people to their own inner resources a bit more, so they can relax, sleep better, and integrate their experience. You could tell that the idea of acupuncture for stress reduction and emotional well-being was not a familiar concept, and there were many who just wouldn't go for it. But momentum built throughout the day and many people will be back tomorrow and over the days to come. Volunteer acupuncturists from around the state will keep the clinic going. It was wonderful that there was three of us, as we could do a lot of outreach without leaving the clinic unattended. We took turns wandering around the firehouse and engaging different people- the Red Cross mental health volunteer from Honolulu, the kitchen ladies who were mostly local, the volunteer firefighters from Everett who were spelling the exhausted Oso crew, the family from Snohomish who were manning the incoming equipment desk, the chaplains who had been listening to stories all week. Many people, once we had talked to them for a bit, decided to come for a treatment. Several had not experienced acupuncture before. I know they will be back, there was a great sinking down of shoulders and opening of hearts.
So many people sharing.....and so many people giving. The huge outpouring of support and volunteerism was really heartwarming, the local people really appreciated it enormously! The treatments were really valued too. Some used the opportunity to sit quietly and tell stories of the past days and weeks, and we learned so much about what people have been experiencing. There was the Chaplin who needed to talk about being out on the pile with a group of responders when a baby's body was found, and how the young military guy broke down and the Chaplin talked to him for hours until he felt better. People helping people to feel better, spreading the grief out, making it more bearable though sharing. Nobody having to be alone. Some women were there with therapy dogs- flown up by Alaska airlines, exhausted and in pain after almost a week of giving. The treatment was so helpful! The young local college girl, who was coming back every weekend and every chance she got to help in the kitchen. She wants to take over the annual Easter egg hunt, that had always happened in the Oso firehouse, now a central command station for lots of organizations and the huge recovery effort. She wants to give the children something normal, something to look forward to. She is going to volunteer to make it happen, she wants to contribute.
And there was another young woman who burst into tears talking about how people had asked, ”how can you live there, in a slide prone zone?”- she felt judged, in pain, and she loves her community. I listened to her and held her, and I know how much it helped. Healing comes when people move beyond blame but sink into the pain of loss and let that be a wave followed by a wave of appreciation for the capacity of people to be their for each other. So many people have come to Oso wanting to help.
It is hard to take in the immensity of the loss to the community, but really enriching to see the human spirit rising to meet the pain, to witness people staying so present and engaged, and to feel hearts so connected to each other. I am very grateful to have been able to participate. Big thank you to AWB and all the others who are making this work possible. Much gratitude to everyone for all the love and caring! Makes me feel better about the world. Oso Strong! Oso hopeful!