As 2013 dawns at Mount Rainier National Park, many employees plan to gather Tuesday morning at Paradise to honor the woman who died a year ago protecting the popular destination.
The memorial service closed to the public and media will mark the anniversary of a tragedy that chief ranger Chuck Young says changed the lives of many people forever.
On New Years Day 2012, park law enforcement ranger Margaret Anderson stopped a man who blew through a snow tire checkpoint. The man, Benjamin Colton Barnes, shot and killed Anderson and fled into the parks snowy wilderness. His body was found in Paradise River the next day.
Park visitors at Paradise were locked down overnight during the manhunt. Those people were invited to Tuesdays service.
The anniversary brings back a lot of bad memories, Young said.
In the year since Andersons death, park officials have worked to develop a plan for a permanent tribute to her and three other rangers who have died in the line of duty. Climbing ranger Nick Hall was killed during a rescue in June, and climbing rangers Phil Otis and Sean Ryan died attempting a rescue in 1995.
Young and park superintendent Randy King have said they want the memorial to be discrete. Three designs have been shown to the park staff members for their feedback. Ultimately, the decision will be made by King.
We want a memorial that reflects those who died, Young said. It should not be something obtrusive that detracts from other things going on in the park. People should be able to visit year round.
The park has identified three possible locations for the memorial. The preferred location is the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise. The park also is considering Longmire and the Twin Falls Trail.
Park officials hope to dedicate the memorial in May.
If part of a building, the memorial could be approved and completed rather quickly. However, Young said, if erected outside, it would require an environmental impact study.
Details of the three proposed options have not been released, but the Paradise design would incorporate (the memorial) into the glass windows that look up to the mountain, Young said.
We want the memorial in a place where people can have some quiet contemplation, he said. We dont want it right in a hall where, if any family members come up, they feel like they are standing in Grand Central Station.
Earlier this year the park paid tribute to Anderson with a tradition borrowed from the military. The park commissioned challenge coins that were distributed to all park employees, including those hired after the shooting.
Those people made a choice to come here even after the tragedy, Young said. That took some courage.
The coin symbolizes something we all went through together, he said.
In September, a National Park Service review board determined Andersons death was not preventable. The board praised the park and other agencies for their reaction and credited Anderson with saving lives.
While Barnes intentions remain unknown, many park workers and visitors believe Andersons actions might have prevented a mass shooting at Paradise.
Jeremy Best was visiting Paradise the morning of the shooting.
Im positive she saved my life, he told The News Tribune in the days after Andersons death.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497
THE FAMILY OF MARGARET ANDERSON
At the time of her death, Margaret Anderson was 34 and had two daughters, 2 and 4 years old.
Her husband, Eric, was a law enforcement ranger at Mount Rainier National Park. He never returned to work at the park and moved his family to Boise, where he is a structural fire-training specialist for the National Interagency Fire Center.
The Margaret Anderson Donation Fund remains open at Eatonvilles KeyBank. Donations go to Andersons family.