By the time a helicopter spotted her, Robin Youngblood was hypothermic, covered in mud and clinging to the roof of her home as it floated through three feet of water. She and her friend, Jetty Dooper, had been chatting inside her house when a massive mudslide slammed into it, knocking it off its foundation.
“We heard the noise and looked out the window,” Youngblood told the Los Angeles Times. “There was a 20-foot wall of mud coming across the valley, and it was racing so fast. It must have been going 150 miles per hour. I just had enough time to say, ‘Oh my God!’ and we were hit.”
While the two women balanced on the roof for safety, Snohomish County Crew Chief Randy Fay flew overhead. He had started his day planning for a mock helicopter rescue, the Times reports, but soon found himself in the middle of the real thing.
Robin Youngblood, right, smiles after embracing Snohomish County helicopter crew chief Randy Fay, who helped rescue her from the scene of the deadly mudslide in Washington. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompsone)
He spotted the women waving from the roof and sent them up to a waiting helicopter, according to the Seattle Times. He then went back to retrieve a painting of a Cherokee warrior, Youngblood’s only possession to survive the slide.
“We got them up and grabbed that picture and gave that to her,” Fay told the Seattle Times. “That’s all she had left.”
After Fay pulled a 4-year-old boy from the mud and brought him to where Youngblood sat recovering in an ambulance, the two parted ways. But on Wednesday, as a tired Fay told his story to a group of reporters, Youngblood happened to be passing by and took the opportunity to thank him. The two hugged and exchanged phone numbers, promising to stay in touch, the LA Times reports.
Youngblood, who has Cherokee ancestry, expressed frustration that those who lost their homes were not allowed back to search for possessions. She had sacred objects that belonged to her great grandmother, according to the Seattle Times, who was one of the first residents in Oso at the turn of the 20th century.
“This isn’t right,” Youngblood told the Associated Press. “All of us who are still alive need to have access and find what we can of our lives.”
A searcher walks in front of a massive pile of debris at the scene of a deadly mudslide, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Oso, Wash. (AP Photo/The Herald, Mark Mulligan, Pool)