Prayer flags made to remember avalanche victims, event tributes volunteers


MISSOULA, Mont. - More than 2 months after a deadly urban avalanche devastated the lower Rattlesnake community in Missoula, friends and family gathered together Sunday afternoon to recognize the people who've helped the community heal.

The late February avalanche buried 3 people and killed 68-year-old Michel Colville.

Avalanche investigators say the slide moved more than 2,000 feet down Mt. Jumbo before stopping in the Rattlesnake neighborhood.

What stood out in the destruction were the hundreds of volunteers who rushed to the scene with shovels to help find the buried victims.

That's what Sunday afternoon's event at Ten Spoon Winery was all about.

The community came together to celebrate the first responders and the volunteers who stuck around to pick up the pieces.

Flags with written sentiments were sewn together and shown at the Ten Spoon Winery.

One of them read, "As the deep pain and profound loss is experienced and honored, may the essence, of love, family, friendship, community, generosity and creativity, fill this space in memory of Michel."

It's one of many stitched together from neighbors and friends there for one purpose, to remember the people affected and celebrate the community support.

"I thought that would really be a beautiful gesture of blessing and healing," said Claire Emery.

Emery put together the idea of the prayer flags and let people create them at the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center. She wanted people to write sentiments all representing, "Goodwill, the compassion, the loss and the replacing of that loss with peace," said Emery.

About 350 flags were shown at eye-level so that community members could read the messages. Eventually, they'll be moved and the flags will fly over the Mt. Jumbo avalanche shoot where they will serve as tribute to those victims and bless the land. They will also fly as a thank you to volunteers.

"One event brings a community together and sometimes we forget to bring the community together in positive ways as well and I think it's really, really important and that's why it's so beautiful to see these flags flying and people here," said volunteer, Tarn Ream.

Ream put the Ten Spoon Winery event for the community to come and eat food, share memories, and look at the flags. She even knew Michel Colville.

"I like to show my respect to people who deserve it and also as a way to say thank you," said Ream.

One of the survivors of the avalanche, 8-year-old Phoenix, and his family were there too.

"I'm just happy to you know, having been a part of it and see people come together and enjoy each other in that way. We're all connected," said Ream.