Search and rescue crews talk emotional toll of grim mission

SNOHOMISH, Wash. - It is an impressive array of people and equipment at Snohomish County Search and Rescue headquarters.

A chance to show the public a little bit about their jobs, teams that have worked daily at the scene of the 530 Slide stood by their helicopters and hover craft. Dogs and their handlers joined the gathering.

This was also a chance for some of the volunteers to share their stories.

"We're all kind of tired, but still very focused and committed to getting this done," said Randy Fay, a member of the helicopter rescue team.

Randy has had two weeks to reflect on the exhilarating rescues he took part in that first day of the devastating slide. Foremost on his mind, however, are thoughts about those still missing and their families.

"I understand the rescue story. but the heavy lifting begins with the recovery work," he said.

Randy shared his thoughts about the conflicting emotions that come from knowing he helped save lives, and knowing relatives wait for searchers to find their loved ones.

The public first learned about Randy after his rescue of a 4-year-old boy was featured in newspaper, radio and TV reports.

Two men at the scene had found the child but were stuck in the deep mud. The chopper pilot hovered a foot off the ground to allow Randy to reach them.

"A helicopter comes in and a guy in a helmet dressed like this pops out, reaches your arms out, so he was really traumatized, shivering badly."

The child and his mother are among those Randy and his team plucked out of the mud and debris. Randy said the boy reminded him of his own grandchildren.

"I have the satisfaction of knowing that those people have survived and they're starting to recover and start that journey to wholeness," he said.

Randy has transitioned to a role that now keeps him on the ground. He praised his teammates on the flight crew who are now faced with a mission that will have no more happy endings.

They are assisting in the search for buried victims.

"The SAR (search and rescue) folks who are out there every day, helping find those folks out there and bring them home that are deceased, that's the....that's the story."