Families Mourn Missing As Search Continues In Washington State
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
People in Snohomish County are mourning the dead and still waiting for answer nearly a week after a massive mudslide devastated this community in northwest Washington. Teams of searchers are sifting through a rain-drenched square mile of debris and mud. Authorities say 90 people are missing and at least 26 are dead.
But the numbers are bound to change and that's become a source of tension. Some family members of those who were trapped are sharing their own versions of the news. Reporters are asking whether authorities have withheld information about the number of bodies. Today, Snohomish County fire chief Travis Hots responded.
TRAVIS HOTS: The numbers that I can give are from the medical examiner's office. I can't give you numbers that I get off of a social media site from somebody that's up at the scene.
CORNISH: Among those still missing, Alan Bejvl and his fiancee, Delaney Webb. They were staying at Webb's grandparents' house, where they had planned to be married in August. I spoke with Alan Bejvl's mother, Diana, today. She told me about her last communication with her son.
DIANA BEJVL: About every week, he would have to have what he called his family fix. And he had just called a few days before that, and he had said, hey, is - can people get together on Saturday? I need my family fixed. So, actually, we were cooking a lunch and my other two children were here, and we were just waiting for Alan to show up. He wasn't supposed to be here until about 2:30. But we were all just hanging around, talking and laughing like we do as a family. And that's when we heard about it. And we knew where he was at, and it was a good possibility that he might have been involved in that.
CORNISH: At this point, what, if anything, have you heard from the rescue operation?
BEJVL: I have not heard from the rescue operations yet. And at this point, a couple of days ago, we came to the realization that what they find, if any of - anything of him, I don't know. We just are waiting. One part of me, of course, wants some of him back. Talking with Delaney's mother, Nicole, we both would cremate. And then we're going to mix some of their ashes together. So a part of them - they were together in life. They're together in death. And they're together in the everafter. And that's why we're trying to treat them as one person because that's how they would have wanted it, not separate but together.
CORNISH: Diana Bejvl, can you give us a sense of who he and Delaney Webb were as a couple? I don't know, perhaps how they met?
BEJVL: How they met is they actually knew each other in school, but not real close. I mean, Darrington is a small community. And Alan, who took shop class almost every class he could, actually taught her how to use a tape measurer. But then they graduated, went on for, you know, I don't know how many months until they met up again via Facebook. And after Facebooking for a couple of weeks and then changing to texting for a couple of weeks, she said, would you like to meet up sometime for dinner?
And Alan, who has never had a girlfriend in his life, goes: like, on a date? And she said, yes. I've never asked a guy out before, and I'll be really embarrassed if you say no. And Alan said, well, I've never been on a date before and I need to run get the dictionary to look that up and started laughing. And they were supposed to go out on a Saturday, but neither one of them wanted to wait that long. And so they went on Wednesday and they met at Taco Bell, and they talked and talked and talked for hours.
CORNISH: Diana Bejvl, what is next for you? I don't know what you've heard from authorities there.
BEJVL: For me personally, hoping that they find Alan and Delaney. But I honestly don't need that for closure. I know that what is left of him is just a body that he lived in while he was on this Earth. And he has gone on to the next one. We have a farm that has to go on. Alan is here everywhere on the farm. So our lives are going to go on. We will never ever forget. It's never going to stop hurting. But I talk to him all the time and I just feel him come down to me and make me feel better. So we're still staying close as a family. My two children and my husband, you know, they're my rocks to get through this. And that's what we're doing.
CORNISH: Diana Bejvl, thank you so much for speaking with us, for sharing the story of your son. Our condolences for you.
BEJVL: Thank you very much. He's in a better place and we will see him sometime.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.