Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Centennial

Yesterday, February 27 I went up to Skykomish for the Wellington Centennial observance. The program was organized by the Skykomish Historical Society and was hosted by Bob Kelly, clearly the ultimate authority on the avalanche. Literally, were it not for Bob, "Vis Major" would not exist. It was amazing, nearly 450 people came to listen and talk, filling the gym at the Skykomish school to capacity and then some.

Gary Krist and I were asked to speak. Gary fled the snowbound east coast and did his presentation giving an overview of the event. I did my part by reading the infamous Wellington Turkey Caper, giving the boys their moment of glory.

In the end, there as a somber moment where Gary, Bob and myself read the names of the dead. With the subtle guitar playing Ashokan Farewell, (from Ken Burns' "Civil War" PBS documentary), the names were read. I felt honored to be able to read off the names of a few of the boys I've gotten to know, Anthony John, "Al" Dougherty, the brakeman that was always in on Bob Meath's schemes, Lou Ross, Benny Jarnagan's fireman, Archie Dupy, the southern, tabacco spitting brakeman, and Joe Pettit, the conductor on Train 25 that took his duties so seriously, he died performing them. It was a little hard to read a few of those names, certainly the recent loss of my mother was in the back of my mind.

At 1:43AM tomorrow morning, it will be the official centennial of the moment 96 people died.

Here's a few shots of me doing what I like to do best, tell the Wellington story through the eyes of those who knew best what happened, the rails themselves. Thanks to Bob Harbison for the great photography!

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