Amid Grief, Darrington Students Dress Up And Head To Prom

May 20, 2014

Anthony Smith and Taylor Lindeman at the Darrington prom
Anthony Smith and Taylor Lindeman at the Darrington prom
Credit Courtesy of Taylor Lindeman

Taylor Lindeman and her boyfriend Anthony Smith drink Red Bull, waiting to get their hair done. Taylor will get a waterfall braid. Anthony wants a haircut, but he’s resisting Taylor’s efforts to have his red bushy beard trimmed. He keeps telling people he wants to grow it out and go “mountain man.”

“I feel like I shouldn’t have to cut my beard,” Anthony protests. “But you’ve got to look good for prom.”

Taylor agrees. “I just want everything to be perfect today,” she says.

Taylor and Anthony are preparing for prom. Here in Darrington, where students have been working alongside others in their community to recover from the mudslide on March 22 that killed nearly 50 people, this universally American ritual is fraught with pain and memory.

Taylor is a junior at Darrington High School; Anthony graduated last year. Taylor says that for her community, prom is “a celebration of how much work we’ve done. And just something to take our minds off of everything, for us to have a good time.”

For Anthony, everything includes the death of his sister, Summer Raffo, 36, who was killed in the slide.

Taylor Lindeman getting ready for the Darrington prom
Taylor Lindeman getting ready for the Darrington prom
Credit KUOW Photo / Kendra Hanna

A Nice Distraction 

Later in the day, Taylor puts the finishing touches on her hair. Anthony’s sister Brittney coats it with hair spray. “Spray the crap out of it Brittney!” Taylor says, laughing.

The girls sit in Brittney’s bedroom. Neon paint is splattered on the walls. In the corner a Boston Terrier sleeps on a pile of laundry.

Brittney, a sophomore at Darrington High School, is also going to prom. She grabs a bag of makeup and pulls out an eyelash curler. “I’ve never curled my eyelashes before,” she says as she holds the curler to her lashes. “Ow! I can’t! I can’t, no!” She abandons the curler.

Anthony Smith and Taylor Lindeman
Anthony Smith and Taylor Lindeman
Credit Courtesy of Taylor Lindeman

Preparing for prom is a nice distraction from the aftermath of the mudslide. The Darrington prom was booked at the Darrington Community Center, a 15 minute drive from the fatal slide that thundered down on the tiny Oso community on that Saturday morning in late March.

No one here has been spared from the effects of the slide. Taylor’s parents drove by the site of the slide 10 minutes after the slide and saw the devastation. “They came home,” Taylor remembers, “and my mom was just screaming – like, ‘Everything’s gone.’”

“Our whole town is kind of shock by it,” Taylor says. “It’s changed us forever. We’re never going to forget that.”

A Tight-Knit Community  

Taylor and Brittney leave the bedroom and walk into the living room, where they meet their dates.

Anthony has indeed trimmed his beard. He looks completely different now. “He looks so good in his tux!” Taylor exclaims. Then they pile into the truck and head for prom.

This prom almost didn’t happen. Usually Darrington High School raises money to put it on, but not this year. Then came the donations. Local hair stylists volunteered to do hair for the prom goers, and KING5 TV in Seattle paid for most of the prom.

Taylor says her school is a tight-knit community. They’ve been volunteering at food banks and at the slide site.

For them, prom is a break from all of that.

Inside the community center, lights are flashing and music is playing. Taylor’s mom takes one last picture. “See you tomorrow!” she calls to her daughter.

Taylor and Anthony go inside.

Youth producer Kendra Hanna is a member of RadioActive Youth Media's advanced producer team at KUOW. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook.