May 18 is an anniversary seared in my memory. I don’t remember any other anniversary not even my first date with my partner, except this one. May 18 is the day Mt. St. Helens blew up. People in Seattle don’t remember it because Seattle wasn’t affected. But, I lived in Ellensburg, WA only 100 miles northeast of the volcano at that time.
The day dawned sunny and warm. My boyfriend drove over for the weekend and we planned a barbecue with friends later in the day. We noticed a humongous black cloud with lightning approaching around 10am. I thought, I hope that storm blows over soon. I don’t remember the weather report mentioning rain.
Just as the cloud reached the campus, another student in the apartment complex yelled, its Mt. St. Helens! Then the ash began falling, like snow, a stinking gritty snow. The night lighting came on at 11am and the world turned black. We stayed inside but the stinking crap crept in under the windowsill. We couldn’t keep it out. The ash just kept falling, a beautiful day ruined. Our friends braved the ash fall and we barbecued indoors. We watched the TV, transfixed by the miles of traffic at a standstill on Interstate 5 and the two rivers raging with debris, taking out bridges and homes.
By the next day, the ash fall abated. But a gray blanket enveloped the city and the sky. The university shut down, and everyone who could get out left, heading for Seattle. My boyfriend and my roommate ran out on me. Walking through the grayness to the pool, I noticed even the birds’ left town. Pin drop silence.
I didn’t see the sun and blue sky until Wednesday and I drove out of town as fast as possible to my parent’s home in north central Washington.
I cursed the Ellensburg wind which blows almost 9 months out of the year. For once, I wished for that wind. When it finally appeared again on Wednesday, the ash blew out of town.
Have an up close and personal brush with a natural disaster? I’d love to hear your story.