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Two years after deadly Montecito Mudslide: “There’s no end date to the healing process”

MONTECITO, Calif. - 1/9 is a day that forever changed our community.

That community came together Thursday at Westmont College to grieve and honor the second anniversary of the Montecito Mudslide.

Hundreds of survivors, first responders, neighbors, and volunteers gathered for “Raising our Light 2020 - An evening of remembrance, connection, and hope.”

“Two years ago our lives were changed forever. My three daughters and I were swept away in our home by the debris flow. Sawyer and Morgan lost their lives and by the grace of God Summer and I survived with broken bodies and broken hearts we were left with nothing,” said survivor Carie Baker-Corey.

The remembrance was hosted by the Montecito Community Partnership Team. 

The program began with a processional of 23 candles, honoring the 23 lives lost two years ago. 

“I was fortunate enough to hang onto an oak tree long enough to get off and make my way to a neighbors house,” said survivor Lalo Barajas. 

Officials say the rainfall on that fateful night was 18 times more than necessary to cause a debris flow on the scarred hillsides. 

“We are all in this together like it or not. In that moment, neighbors went out into the debris with the first responders to help rescue their other neighbors there are people here tonight pulled out of the mud,” Abe Powell, Co-Founder of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade. 

Lauren Cantin sang “You’ll never walk alone,” a poignant moment given the processional of candles and community resilience. Cantin was pulled from the mid and her father Dave and brother Jack perished in the disaster. 

65 homes were destroyed, 465 damaged and more than 163 people were injured. Two bodies have yet to be recovered, including Cantin’s brother Jack. 

“Unfortunately my partner of 17-years, Peter, did not make it. From that moment going forward it seems like you could just see this community coming together,” said Barajas. 

“You all held us up when we could not do it ourselves and we’re so grateful,” said Baker-Corey. 

“Some may feel like they’ll never heal. Some may feel a sense of reality and permanence that was not felt last year when we sat together. Some feel like superheroes stronger than ever and all of that is normal,” said Suzanne Grimmesey, 

“There’s no end date to the healing process,” said Powell. 

A children’s choir from Montecito Schools ended the program, singing an original song called “Start Where You Are,” leading a recessional with those 23 candles. 

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Kacey Drescher

Kacey Drescher is a reporter/anchor at KEYT|KCOY|KKFX.