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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

May 21, 2010


“Look out ‘cause it’s coming our way!”

That’s what our friends Thelma and Gus told us on Sunday May 18, 1980.

I was living in Great Falls, Montana at the time. Mt. St Helens in nearby Washington State had been rumbling and fuming for several weeks and we knew the eruption was imminent but no one knew what its force would be.

Besides, how much disruption could we in North Central Montana feel from a volcano some 500 miles west of us?

The answer was; we felt absolutely nothing. But a day and a half later and for the next couple days it rained and rained ash from the volcano plume. It was like late winter snow. It snowed on the just and the unjust. Houses and cars and streets and fields. It stayed and blew and swirled with the wind.

No one was certain how much damage it would do to one’s lungs so most in Great Falls stayed in for 2 ½ days. I remember watching the old lady next door go out a couple times to sweep her walks with a broom. By the time she got back to her front door, the ash had covered the walks again. People cleaned off their cars but we weren’t certain what damage to the engines would occur once we started them and the ash was sucked into the engine chambers.

Of course the newspapers were filled with stories of tragedy; loss of life and livelihoods and homes and animals and crops and businesses. The amount of force of the blast was compared to that of however many nuclear bombs being detonated. Forests for seventeen miles were leveled.

There was an old, crusty hermit-guy who lived on the mountain and he had been warned to get out of his cabin and into the city but he resisted. I never caught his name. but then a week later I read the headline that “Harry Truman is feared dead on St. Helens.” I thought, “Gawd, what was President Truman doing there?” And besides, I thought Harry had died years before. Turns out the old guy was indeed named “Harry Truman” but he was most certainly not the late President.

I watched a video the other day on “Mount St. Helens-30 years later.” The mountain and blast sight are clearly visible. The ecosystem surrounding it is regenerating within my lifetime.

But for years afterward my car was never quite the same. I lived in both Berkeley and then Wisconsin in those years. When people would ride in my car and roll down the windows, ash would drop out of the handles onto the car seats and carpet. My friends would look at me as if to say, “What the heck?!”

Early on, I told them, “Mount St. Helens!” And they would give me a quizzical look.

After a few years I didn’t bother to explain anymore. I just shrugged.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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