WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. -- The one upside of the Whidbey Landslide is there's plenty of fuel for Joanna Bachman’s wood burning stove.
For much of the past week Bachman and her mom Elsie have been cut-off from the rest of the world. No water, no electricity. No TV or Internet.
Elsie passes some of her time playing solitaire, a fitting game considering all of her neighbors have left. Some were forced to leave, with their homes directly in the slide’s massive path. Others did so for fear another slide could wipe them out.
Eighty-four- year-old Elsie, however, the daughter of a Croatian coal miner, stayed put. She did so for one simple reason. It’s the same reason that’s kept her coming back here for 40 years.
“It's home,” she said.
“Home” is what's still at stake for so many left dealing with the aftermath of last Wednesday’s historic landslide that moved nearly 5-1/2 million square feet of earth in just a few seconds.
Five houses remain uninhabitable, including one belonging to Bret Holmes, which continues to lose ground. There are serious questions as to whether it will survive, or meet the same fate as the one house that slid to its destruction last week. On Wednesday he began moving everything he could into a steel storage container in the driveway.
Water and trash service have been restored. Electricity won’t be back on until next week, at the earliest. County crews have laid a primitive, one-lane road that allowed people to get their cars out of the cut-off area so they can get to work or the grocery store.
It will be weeks, if not months, before engineers will know whether the hillside is stable enough to rebuild the road that will give people full access to their homes.
To that end, folks like Mark Laska, owner of Coupeville’s Ciao Restaurant, are doing what they can to help their neighbors. Laska is organizing a fundraiser this Saturday at Greenbank Farm.
“People need emotional help. They need financial help. They need help moving. It's people that just need to talk to somebody that have experienced a loss that you or I can't imagine,” said Laska.
The fundraiser runs from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. A $20 donation will get you a day full of music and food. Additional donations can be made to the Whidbey Slide Relief Fund at Wells Fargo Bank branches. (More info: www.ciaowhidbey.com)
In the meantime, Elsie and Joanna find peace in life’s simple pleasures. For lunch it’s peanut butter and honey sandwiches washed down with a nice glass of red wine.
Elsie says, even though the hillside behind her remains unpredictable, she's done worrying about too much.
“I'm 84 years old. If something happens to me, it's just my time,” she said.