summer issue featuring kevin costner
Spring featuring Mary osborne
spring featuring rosalee measures
winter featuring doug friedlander
fall07 featuring Shu Ming
Spring 07 featuring Sara Kalvin
 

michelle wallet
la conchita

la conchita mudslidw

la conchita victims

jasmine wallet

womack

charly womack

jimmy wallet

 

west coast

michelle wallet's brother

michelle wallet & karen Townsend

 




Purchase This Issue - Click Here

Relief Fund Information

portion of "PARADISE LOST"
as it appeared in the Spring issue
of vc Life & Style magazine.

Written by Amy Jones- All rights reserved ©2005

By now, the world knows about the tragedy in Southern California: On January 10, 2005, the rain soaked hillsides of La Conchita gave way, sending 400,000 tons of liquefied mud surging toward the ocean. From aerial shots, the homes of the colorful beach community appeared tiny and helpless in the path of the slide. Ten people died, injuries ranged from critical to moderate, 13 homes were obliterated, and 19 homes red-tagged. The community that represented a last coastal outpost of true California living was devastated.

IN LOVING MEMORY
From the Womack-Wallet Household:
Charlie Womack – age 51
Mechelle Wallet– age 37
Hannah Wallet– age 10
Raven Wallet – age 6
Paloma Wallet– age 2
Vanessa Bryson – age 28
Tony Alvis – age 53
Christina Kennedy – age 45
John Morgan – age 56
Patrick Rodreick – age 47

Many beloved dogs, cats, birds, bunnies and other animals
Everyone in the surrounding communities had a connection to the mourning families at La Conchita, and a desperate relief effort was launched: Musicians played benefit concerts; people donated money, clothing, or use of homes. There was even a hair-cut-a-thon.

The hardest hit family was often the center of life at La Conchita. It was headed by Charlie Womack whose legendary kindness and generosity helped to create a free-spirited household filled with art and music. Charlie, a single father of four, never turned anyone away. His youngest daughter, Tessa and sons Isaiah and Orion lived with him along with Isaiah’s fiancée Brie Brazelton and her twin sister, Annie and her boyfriend Griffin. Also in the house were the Wallet family – Jimmy, Mechelle, Hannah, Raven, Paloma and Jasmine, who lived part-time in Ventura.

Surviving members of the Womack-Wallet family hope their hillside at La Conchita will be painted this spring with a sea of wildflowers from the seeds they planted. They visit La Conchita often, going together when they don’t know where else to go. For the last three months, they’ve worked to create a work of art in their lives that will be beautiful enough to eclipse the ugly disaster that stole their loved ones, five from the same household. The life they knew and every material possession associated with it – gone. It’s a kind of devastation one usually only sees in wartime.

Those hardest hit are still stumbling around in a fog of loss, grasping for peace and a higher truth that will help them sleep at night and give them strength to start over. The real battles often begin long after the headlines and continue in ever increasing isolation. Relief funds dry out. Assistance begins to wane, but need aches on.

This story is printed as a plea to Ventura County to continue its efforts. Nobody that went through this kind of hell should be sleeping on the floor. This story is a collection of first hand memories and perceptions. It is not intended to represent an exhaustive investigative report of all events, nor is it intended to dismiss the efforts of rescue personnel who faced the challenges at La Conchita with bravery and honor. It is the voices of the hardest hit family, and their desire to share what happened on their hill. For them, it is as if it all happened just yesterday.

Jimmy Wallet, who lost his wife and three daughters said, “Most media edits what you say; they put whatever they want. I almost knocked out Geraldo [Rivera]. It would really feel good to sit down and tell our truth.” The chaos was a bitter no-win situation for anyone involved. Besides the stricken residents of La Conchita who showed courage, ingenuity, and resilience, numerous agencies – sheriffs, fire & rescue teams, and L.A. prisoners toiled in the mayhem against disaster protocols, fear and tragedy alongside La Conchita residents.

Jimmy Wallet explained how the Womack-Wallet households came to live together: “I met Charlie in Hawaii when I went to work for him, and we were immediate friends. He was Grateful Dead; I was punk rock, but we loved each other. We all ended up moving back to the Ventura area, and when me and Mechelle had a hard time with money, Charlie, had his house in La Conchita and said, ‘Come on up.’ We were all so happy together.”

Brie reflected on life in La Conchita: “Many people ask why we stayed…I’d been there my whole life, and I always wanted to stay. Charlie and Isaiah built me a beautiful kitchen. I loved cooking for friends and family there. It was my favorite place to be, and I really miss it. Sometimes now I cook too much, because there are so many people missing from the table…Nothing compares to growing up in La Conchita. You knew where your kids were and everybody took care of each other. Beach days on Sundays; block parties, huge birthdays every year. Music, dancing and art. Life there was beautiful. Neighbors came over for coffee in the morning, and we often cooked big dinners for everyone at night. It was a huge extended family. The only way I can think of to describe the suddenness of the loss is to think of a bunch of butterflies on a branch, being shaken off so violently and unexpectedly, you never see them again … I still don’t dream of that house with the banana trees, and the beautiful bamboo, and the jasmine climbing up the trellis Isaiah built for me. I dream of La Conchita, but not that house. It was like heaven – the teepee, our bus painted for the music room…”

Jimmy Wallet met his wife Mechelle on her 15th birthday. “She was my only love; we were soul mates. No one else in our group believed in spirits except for us, and I remember being in separate houses when we started dating and I would send her my soul… I was 16, and one night we prayed and cried and hugged and kissed for like two hours about when we were going to have a family. We were going to be artists and live out in the country…This past Christmas was the best we had in all of our marriage and as a family. We were broke, but we were together. One morning during the holidays Charlie and Jasmine and me sat on the front porch checking out our paradise surrounded by creativity, green growing things, birds and butterflies. The music, the people, the dancing, the energy and the love of our home together were incredible. People pulled off the freeway to check it out. Mechelle and I had never been more in love. When we saw the tsunami, we cried, because we felt so bad for those people. We hugged each other and asked, ‘What would we ever do if one of us lost the other?’ Man. I never imagined…
I still don’t know baby.”

Jimmy remembers the morning of the slide, “I woke up first, then Mechelle; Charlie was already up watching the tornado warnings on TV. It was 5 am, and we were like, ‘WHAT?’ I yelled to everyone, ‘Hey come downstairs; we’re going to Oz!’ The tornado never came, but the morning was very calm and the birds weren’t vhirping… Nobody could work, so we planned to barbeque and take the kids to look for arrowheads. My kids were excited. I went to get them some ice cream; I’m told I get my kids too much ice cream. You can never have enough. At the store, Brie and Isaiah were sitting on the car planning the day. Just a few minutes later, cars honked and someone yelled, ‘The hill!’ We looked around, and the hill was pouring down so fast; it looked like chocolate milk with swirls of green. And, the crackling of trees, knowing your family is in there, and you’re running.”

As Jimmy ran toward the hill, the mud flow was going down a different lane. “We thought it wasn’t going to hit our house, but we were still going full speed to get them out…I watched as the slide hit the retaining wall and veered straight for our house. It was funneled right to the bedroom my wife was in, and it shot hard.” Brie was behind Jimmy as they ran towards their home. “By the time I got to my front fence, I saw the slide hit the back of the house. I had to run the other way even if I didn’t want to. It was hard that first day with all the sheriffs and the media. The sheriffs kept trying to push us away.

I had to sneak past them to get to my dad’s dogs; most of our
other animals were killed. Only my bird Chico got out…We were in
La Conchita for the 1995 slide; it was so much slower, and we had time to prepare. They told us it was going to happen. This time, they estimated that the slide reached 200 mph. You could see it, hear it, feel it, and it came so fast. People didn’t have a chance.”

Isaiah and Orion ran toward the slide with Brie and Jimmy. “Earlier, there had been mudslides, one just north of us and one south that covered both sides of the freeway, so we were locked in there. There was a girl named April who was stuck on the side of the freeway. She wanted to get out, but they sent her from her car back to her house, and she got crushed. So there was authority there, and we trusted them, and they told everyone trying to leave, ‘Get back to your house. GO BACK TO YOUR HOUSE!’ When the hill went, it looked like flowing water; it wrapped my truck around a telephone pole and formed an instant 30ft. high wall over our home,” said Isaiah.

Jimmy described the world moving in slow motion as he stood
watching the tragedy unfold in front of him. “I was thinking, 'This can’t be.' The slide took cars, houses, telephone poles, trees, and when it hit our house, in my heart, in my mind, I knew everyone was in there, my wife, my kids, Charlie. I tried to dive inside the mud, and it was like the Matrix flying past me, a blur of wood, muck and mire. I jumped, and the mud lifted me up on the roof. The mud was above the roof line. I didn’t know what to do. I grabbed mud; it was like concrete. It solidified immediately when it stopped. I screamed their names.

I pulled back a piece of metal, and that’s when I found Isabelle with like a whole house stacked on her. ‘Oh baby,’ I said to her. I tried to lift the house off of her but couldn’t budge it, and I saw a cop, a huge strapping guy in the alley not 30-feet away. I yelled to him, ‘Hey, I found someone right here.’ He wouldn’t come, so I slid down and said, 'You’re not gonna come up here?' And, he said, ‘No; it ain’t my job; you have to wait for the rescuers.’ And, I’m thinking, ‘I’m gonna eat your heart when I get back mister.’ By that time, there were a bunch of camera guys swarming over. I’m like, ‘Hey, why don’t you drop your cameras and help me dig?’ They stood there snapping pictures.”

Isaiah said, “When the cop turned his back on Jimmy, me and my
brother Orion started digging out Isabelle so Jimmy could look for his girls. We were digging her out for twenty minutes or more before a crew came up. Orion kept telling Isabelle that he saw the rescue team on its way, even if he didn’t so she would hold on. You could tell she was barely alive. When the rescue crew got there, we went back to looking for Mechelle and the girls. It took about an hour and twenty minutes from the time Jimmy asked that cop for help before Isabelle could get out. She was blue.”

Jimmy Wallet described a situation of total chaos. “If there’s a hell, that’s what it looks like. I can’t explain exactly how it felt, because I don’t know. Something just took over. When the mud hit the houses, it sounded like dynamite going off in every room – POP. POP. Mud filled the houses like water balloons until they exploded; you could hear splintering and cracking. You could smell gas and earth. Walls, roofs, and dirt just flying everywhere. Pieces of houses mixed together. A tree came down with such force; it split our house in two, so that it flew in opposite directions.

“I knew where I left my kids, but the house was spread out all over the place. You don’t know what that does to you. I didn’t know how anyone could survive this…but I kept looking. You gotta hope. Your mind won’t let you accept it. So I’m looking around and see a chair from our living room where I left Raven painting a picture. Pieces of the fireplace from that room were on top. I tried to reach through, but Raven wasn’t in there, and then I see a shoe she was wearing jammed in the mud.

“The first night, when it got dark, the rescue crews left and took the
lights and tools. We were trying to dig with our hands, pieces of wood, anything, but that stuff was so heavy. After an hour we hadn’t gotten anywhere. I left to get help and tools in Pierpont.” Isaiah said, “I was amazed that they shut down the rescue. I know it’s their lives too, but leave us with no shovels, no picks…That was unbelievable, because we had a lot of people wanting to help, and they only let in press, who did nothing. You should have seen how long people were standing around.”

The search was suspended at 9pm after the county geologist said the area was too dangerous and unstable for authorities to keep digging. It was a difficult decision for some of the rescuers to accept, one that haunts surviving family members...

...If you would like to read the entire 10 page story- please pick up a copy of vc Life & Style magazine at Natalies Eclectables on Main street in Downtown Ventura and State of Mind on State street in Santa Barbara.

To send relief donations to the Womack-Wallet family contact:
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust
The Womack and Wallet Memorial Fund
Established by Matt Russell, Charlie Womack's brother-in-law.
P.O. Box 427
Carpinteria, CA 93014

vc Life & Style printed a limited number of La Conchita special relief editions with a $25.00 price to raise money for the Womack-Wallet family. 100% of the profits will go directly to the family. The relief editions may be purchased by contacting vc Life & Style at 805.641.9303 or at Natalie’s Eclectibles at California and Main Streets in downtown Ventura.

La Conchita Mudslide Tragedy Relief Fund Information

vc Life & Style suggests that people wishing to make donations, contact the funds or banks to which they wish to make their donation to confirm account information and standing.

La Conchita victims are welcomed to provide their relief fund information or notices that will direct people on what they need or where to donate to vc Life & Style Magazine – 805.641.9303.

vc Life & Style is selling the special relief edition of their Spring issue for $12.00, and donating approximately $8.00 of every issue to the Wallet/Womack family. You can pick this issue up at Natalies Ecclectibles on Main Street in Downtown Ventura, corner of California & Main, and you can also pick it up at State of Mind on State street in Santa Barbara. Call us for details.

Information

Funds for individual families

Numerous separate memorial funds have been set up for individuals and families. Make checks payable to the *EXACT* name of the family fund when sending checks.

Womack and Wallet Memorial Fund

Five members of the Womack-Wallet household died at La Conchita. Their home was destroyed and they lost all of their possessions.
Established by Matt Russell, Charlie Womack's brother-in-law.
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust
P.O. Box 427
Carpinteria, CA 93014

Charlie Womack Memorial Fund
Established by Jessica L. Lunsford
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust
P.O. Box 427
Carpinteria, CA 93014
Charlie Womack Memorial Pictures are at www.illuminatrix.net.
...or PayPal to llamatribe@gmail.com

Tony Alvis Family Memorial Fund

Established by Dan Alvis
Tony Alvis died in the slide; Surfer, Sespe Pack Guide. See www.lospadresoutfitters.com for pictures of him working. If you would like to make a donation to help pay for the care, feeding and upkeep of Tony's horses & mules (31 head) you can do so by contacting: Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Debbie Crump (805)684-4566, Account:
Tony Alvis Memorial Fund
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust
P.O. Box 427
Carpinteria, CA 93014

Christina Delgado-Kennedy Memorial Fund

Christina Kennedy died, leaving her son Chase Kennedy.
Established by Jessica L. Lunsford
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust
P.O. Box 427
Carpinteria, CA 93014

Vanessa Bryson Memorial Fund

Established by Jessica L. Lunsford
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust
P.O. Box 427
Carpinteria, CA 93014

Wallet Family Memorial Fund

Jimmy and Jasmine Wallet lost four members of their family including Jimmy’s wife Michelle and three daughters – Hannah, Paloma and Raven.
Established by Stan Wallet
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust
P.O. Box 427
Carpinteria, CA 93014

Wallet Family Memorial Fund
Established by Karen and Scott Townsend
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust
P.O. Box 427
Carpinteria, CA 93014

Jasmine Wallet Educational Fund
Jasmine Wallet is 16-years-old and lost her mother and three little sisters.
Ventura Unified School District
255 West Stanley
Ventura, California, 93001
For information call El Camino High School at (805) 289-7955

Tessa Womack Educational Fund
Tessa Womack is 15-years-old and lost her father Charlie Womack who was her sole guardian. Her brother, Isaiah Womack is currently going through the legal process to be her legal guardian.
Established by Matt Russell, Charlie Womack's brother-in-law.
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust
P.O. Box 427
Carpinteria, CA 93014

John and Jerry Worthy-Franco Relief

John and Jerry Worthy-Franco’s home was condemned. If you wish to help them directly, please mail a check to:
Jerry Franco c/o Sea Rose Salon
919 Maple Ave
Carpinteria, CA 93103

Daniel Powel Relief Fund

Daniel Powel lost his girlfriend, Vanessa Bryson along with all personal belongings. Commission Junction is collecting funds on his behalf which will be deposited directly into his bank account at Montecito Bank & Trust. To make a donation to help him, please send a check or come into
Commission Junction
c/o Daniel Powel Relief Fund
1501 Chapala Street
Santa Barbara CA 93101

Nadine Bunn Relief Account


Nadine Bunn was buried in the La Conchita mudslide and then recovered. She sustained extensive injuries and has undergone numerous surgeries.
Her Washington Mutual account requires that you visit any Washington Mutual branch and tell them that you wish to deposit funds into account number #180-308-2584.
The WaMu customer service number is 1-800-788-7000.

Videographer and Social Activist, Chrissy Strassburg

is currently producing a video about La Conchita. She has donated her time and resources to the production. Visit her site www.girlmanmedia.com for more information on the La Conchita project of for more information on the Womack-Wallet family

 

 

 

 


 
 

| Home | Advertise | Subscribe | Issues | Guides | Contact |

© Copyright 2008 VENTURA LIFE MAGAZINE
Terms & Conditions | Privacy