Where Were You When…

Posted May 19 2010, 3:18 am in ,

There are certain events in our lives which will always be remembered by each of us answering the question: Where were you when…? September 11 is one of those. The Nisqually Earthquake is another for those of us who live around South Puget Sound.

If you’re a native Washingtonian, and you’ve been around a while, you probably know what May 18th means.
It’s the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Since today is the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, I thought I’d go out on a limb and date myself by telling you what I was doing on May 18, 1980.
It started out as a hot, spring Sunday morning in Pullman, Washington. My roommates and I were students at Washington State University. It was almost finals week. All four of us hit the books that morning and didn’t turn on the TV. Oblivious to what happened that morning, we noticed an odd-shaped storm cloud heading our way. The thing was huge and black and angry looking.
Mitzi decided to call her parents to check in. The first thing she mentioned to them was our impending store. To which they replied: Mt. St. Helens blew today. Turn on your TV.
We did and studying was put on the back burner. The emergency broadcasting system was activated. Fire station vehicles with loud speakers drove through the parking lots and warned students to stay inside. Breathing ash into your lungs wasn’t something any of us planned on doing. So we hunkered down and waited for the cloud to arrive. Before long the skies were black, the street lights came on, and the ash started to fall like dirty snow. Eventually you couldn’t even see the light from the streetlights. Our balcony was covered in about six inches of ash, which we collected in jars. I still have a few jars full of ash.
For the next few days we stayed inside a stifling hot apartment until we ran out of food and alcohol. We donned our masks and ventured out into a world very different from the one of a few days ago. This new world was shrouded in gray. Everything was gray. Mt. St. Helens had left her mark and saved us from finals, which we were allowed to skip.
It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

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