May 18th marked 36 years since our mountain blew. Folks in the know reported it was ready to erupt, so my boss drove to St. Helens on the 10th and reported that it seemed to be bulging on the side facing the place where he stood. An Oregonian Newspaper reporter interviewed Harry Truman, the owner of the Spirit Lake Lodge, and asked what he was going to do. “Nothing,” Harry said. “My wife is buried right over there. If this old mountain wants me I’ll be right here where I’ve been for the past 60 years,” he added.
We all had plenty of advance warning. We shouldn’t have been surprised.
But we were.
Maybe it was because the side blew out rather than the top like volcanos are supposed to.
A friend and I rode motorcycles to Portland that day. The sky was filled with gray ash billowing thousands of feet into the sky. It was a glimpse into the ancient past when Earth was still a hot cinder.
Living along the Pacific Rim I remembered one volcano setting off another, and I wondered if this was a precursor of what was yet to come. No one knew.
Later that day the wind shifted, bringing the ash south, covering our streets and lawns with what looked like the results of a gray snow storm. People covered their faces for fear the “snow” brought with it a deadly poison.
But most of our fears proved to be unfounded. We survived to tell our stories. Within a few months ear rings made of Mt. St. Helens ear rings were on sale all over Washington State.
Now, 36 years later, the event is mostly forgotten like birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
After viewing the many photos I recognized that old Broken Top, a mountain in Oregon’s Cascade Range is what remains of an ancient volcano. During the early minutes of sunrise I can see that Broken Top is missing one side just like St. Helens.