This is the 40th Anniversary of Mt. St. Helens' eruption, a time that many of us locals remember all too well.
It was early in the morning on a Sunday, many of us were going about our usual days. Getting ready for church, just doing what we did as a family 40 years ago. For myself, I was a young high school age student living in Winlock.
We went to church that morning like we always did on Sunday. The Lutheran Church in Winlock has a beautiful view of Mt. St. Helens. After church when we all walked out, there was a huge plume of ash coming out of the top of the mountain. At that point, I remember asking,"what happened?" and someone older said "It looks like she finally blew her top." I didn't understand what exactly that meant at the time.
I remember rushing home, Dad was at work. He worked at Longview Fibre and was trying to get home, but all roads were closed. I remember him telling us he was going to try to get home through Ryderwood. We turned on the news and that's when we found out there was a big wall of mud headed down to the Columbia River, where Dad was working.
It was then that my mom wanted to go check things out, she was an adventurous person. We hopped in the car and headed to West Side Highway. When we got there, Spike Millman who was a Lewis County Sheriff Deputy asked where we were going. I remember saying, "We are going to check out the mountain." His response was perfect, Spike stated "You are not going anywhere missy, now go home." It was then that we realized, all roads going south were closed. This was not some little eruption, this was causing serious damage.
We, as locals, never expected her to blow. We had seen her spouting, being a little temperamental, but none of us ever thought she would blow her entire side out. We didn't understand the magnitude of what had happened. We were young and knew that something big had happened. It was an exciting time or so we thought.
Eventually, my dad made it home safely but he told us there were lives lost. We just didn't know how many or who.
During the next week, we learned of the devastation that took place, 5 mile, 9 mile, all the logging camps we had all grown up with were gone. Homes gone, old timber and wildlife gone. Spirit Lake gone. The road to sledding, wiped out.
The one thing that many of us remember, is the loss of life that we all still mourn today. I will never forget hearing that we lost Wally Bowers, who was a graduate of Winlock in 1958. We also lost Mr. and Mrs. Pluard. I knew some of the Pluard kids from Toledo. A young married couple, John and Christy Killian lost their lives that day as well. John was the brother of Marlene Bikar who I adore to this day. We lost some wonderful people that day. May 18, 1980, the mountain took from us after giving beauty to us for so many years.
The following week, the mountain blew again. This time we got ash, and a lot of it. We couldn't go anywhere for a few weeks. School was cancelled, much like today. Our lives came to a screeching halt, eerily reminiscent of our current issues.
Even though Mt. St. Helens blew 40 years ago and left so much devastation in her path, she is giving back her beauty for many generations to come.