Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When Good Mountains Go Bad

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption. I was seven years old (meep! how time flies!) that Sunday afternoon when the sky went dark in Spokane, WA.

I don't remember feeling scared, really. Just fascinated. When the skies cleared we had a few inches of ash on the ground, like gritty, gray snow. We scooped some up in jelly jars and pill bottles to save for posterity. Plows and snow shovels came out of storage to deal with the rest.

I wish I'd been older. I wish I could remember more. The significance of such a major event sailed right over my little head. One of my most vivid memories involves the paper masks we wore to protect our lungs. Volunteers at school painted clown faces and puppies and kitties on the masks so we'd be more inclined to wear them.

I've always wanted to frame this event as a story, somehow. Funny how the random things that happen in childhood provide fuel for our grown-up imaginations.

Photos from fas.org and US geological survey, respectively. Couldn't find a single photo of those silly masks, though.


Vijaya said...

Chris, I remember this well ... I was 14 and in Pullman. Truly I thought something Biblically ominous had happened. My brother was visiting us at the time, so we walked around, scooping up the ash in jars. School was canceled and we didn't have to take finals! That's little detail is definitely going to show up in a story some day.

We've gone camping there a couple of times and it's amazing to see how life comes back. A few years ago, I wrote a couple of articles in Odyssey about Mt. St. Helens. I really enjoyed that.

Chris said...

Wow, how cool to hear from another St. Helens "survivor"! It sits there so strong in my memory, so significant, even though the details are fuzzy. I love that you were able to turn your experience into a writing opportunity.

Thanks for visiting!

Bryce said...

I can't believe it's been 30 years... I remember reading about it in my Weekly Reader in school.

Two events from the early 80's stand out to me... St. Helen's and Ronald Reagan. Other than that, it's all blurry.