Where were you when the mountain blew?
May 18, 1980. 8:32AM. That popular question was asked of many, with
various replies and recollections given in response. Mine was that I
was right here, in Portland, Oregon, some fifty miles south of the beautiful
The rumblings had gone on for months, steam plumes and tremors. Nightmares plagued me, of animals fleeing flames and roaring sounds and birds in futile flight. Then that Sunday morning, without prompting from an alarm clock, I woke suddenly. I turned on the radio, made coffee, and before it was ready the bulletin came over the air! Mt. St. Helen's was erupting! The reporters were hectic, not knowing what was happening. As the details became more and more vivid, shock settled in.
The reporters voices were filled with panic as the scenes unfolded. The destruction, the devastation, was surreal! My phone rang and it was my friend Tom. He and his girlfriend Julie wanted to go to Rocky Butte to watch. I drove over and picked them up and as we made our way up to the top of Rocky Butte. There was an eerie electric green glow in the sky.
Rocky Butte sits in the middle of East Portland and from there you can see forever. The view stretches from the range of mountains that separate the valley from the coast to the rugged canyons of the Columbia River Gorge. You can see the mountains that ring Seattle and Oregon's own Mt Hood looms large over it all. But this day, your eyes were fixed upon the enormous plume of smoke and ash that once was the top of a 10,000 foot mountain. Suspended in the air twelve miles up from what was the mountain loomed this gray-green churning boiling mass. Lightning bolts jumped wildly in and out without making a sound. There was no thunder. But the silence of the crowd of people was deafening. No one spoke a word. Just silent awe.
I turned away for a moment to look south and that's when I realized the heat. The chilly morning air had lost it's sting as we watched, and directing my gaze opposite the mountain showed me how powerful this event before my eyes really was. Here we stood fifty miles away, yet it was the same sensation you get when standing around a campfire.
Looking back, I wonder if God was using
that event to get my attention.