I was 11 years old when Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. I clearly remember hearing, on the evening news, for weeks about a volcano in Washington State. in the United States! I was amazed and a bit terrified. Stories of Mount Etna and Pompeii conjured terrifying images in my head. What if it blew up?!
A couple of weeks before the eruption, the news reported a growing bulge on the side of the mountain. I remember thinking that was really odd. What could cause a mountain to bulge from the inside?
And then it happened: Mount St. Helens erupted in a fantastic display of ash that swept over the surrounding region.
There was a man, by the name of Harry Randall Truman who absolutely refused to move away from near the foot of the mountain. He lived there for 54 years. I remember him as he became quite famous for NOT moving away from a potentially dangerous site. He was on the evening news and our class, like many others, wrote him letters expressing our concern for his safety. He was 84.
A volcanologist named David Johnston was stationed nearby when the mountain erupted. Just before his position was hit by the pyroclastic flow, he radioed what would be his last and famous words, “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” He was 30.
Neither man was ever found.
55 other people were also killed during that eruption.
I also remember that the ash from the eruption fell across New England. It looked a lot like snow. But, it was too warm. And… you just knew it wasn’t.
Do you remember this event?