Thursday, May 18, 2006

My memories of the Mount St. Helens eruption

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

It's been 26 years, but I can still remember where I was that Sunday morning when Mount St. Helens erupted.

From the western slope of the Blue Mountains in southeastern Washington state, the sky was pure blue without a single wispy cloud in the sky until a dot of gray on the western horizon began to spread eastward into a triangle of gray. By the time the leading edge of the gray mass reached the sky over my head, it formed a solid blanket over the sky to the north, while the sky to the south remained a pure blue.

Not a single bit of ash dropped where I stood.

My first husband had family in Yakima, Washington and they entered church with the blue sky above and opened the doors at the end of the service to find their world engulfed in gray. Flakes of ash kept falling from the sky until 4-5 inches coated everything. For those who had been ignoring the ongoing story about the bulge in what had been considered a harmless mountain, it must have looked like the fallout of fire and brimstone. Many people seemed to expect just that after Vietnam and Watergate.

Almost as clear in my mind is the talk my husband dragged me to between the time the mountain started rumbling and the eruption. The speaker was a survivalist who was selling what would soon become ocean-front property in Montana. According to him, a Mount St. Helens eruption would trigger all of the dormant volcanoes in the Cascade range so people in Washington, Oregon and California would have less than 24 hours to escape before the entire west coast plunged into the ocean. I remember people speculating after the talk about whether it was better to stock up on ammunition or provisions or both.

If it hadn't meant leaving his mother behind, I suspect my first husband would have bought whatever that man was selling and would have dragged me to who knows where. Survivalist paranoia fit his worldview perfectly. The sad thing is that I was still attempting to be a good wife (and still trying to atone for my sinful behavior after I was raped) and would have gone with him and likely would have gotten in trouble for my negative attitude since I couldn't accept that the world was going to hell and fast. Turning on me would have given my husband a convenient way to work out his frustration over being conned.

May 18, 1980 was a memorable day, but I'm glad it and my first marriage are long over.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:57 AM   0 comments links to this post

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