Sorry for bumping an old thread, but this tends to be an appealing one.
Back in 1980, I was in the 6th grade at Granite Falls Middle School, almost 105 miles dead-north of St. Helens. When it first stirred to life in the end of March 1980, it bit me, hard. A good deal of time was spent researching on its history and watching the news, then reporting to my classmates what was going on. Everyone was piqued: we learned about the history, the geography around it, vital stats, even about that stubborn ol' Harry S. Truman who wouldn't leave...and his beautiful lodge on Spirit Lake. WA state got on the map and we were all excited.
May 18: I'll never forget that morning. My family was asleep, I was awake reading Flying magazines and peeking at the clock for some reason: 8:30 a.m., a couple hours before I could get up and pester friends to go riding with me on a beautiful, warm Sunday. Within a minute or two, I felt tremors, very small ones which gently rattled a couple small things on the dresser...then the entire house shook violently as though on a gimbel for about a second. THAT freaked me out! I called out for family...nobody answered, they all slept through it. Less than an hour later, we were all up and having a coffee and I asked if anyone felt the shaking an hour earlier: nope, not a thing. I was imagining it, they were blasting stumps in the hills, yeah, they were doing that, they all said. No...not for the house to shake like it did (they wrote me off because what is now the autism/Asperger I have was called 'being an idiot' or 'retarded' back then), so I got up to place a call to Ian, my friend...
"Hey, Ian! You free today?"
"Bob! Did you hear what happened? Mt. St. Helens blew up an hour ago!", Ian replied excitedly.
"What channel is it on?"
"ALL of them!"
I raced to the TV, turned it on, it was already on KOMO-4...there it was. I barked out to my family "AH! Told ya!", and we all gathered around to watch the images. They were horrific, surreal, beyond belief. The ash went east over Yakima and on, falling on the campsite my best friend was at, they got hit and evacuated. We couldn't see it from Granite Falls, way too many trees. Throughout the day, into the week, daily reports at school, more facts, the death toll...Dave Johnson's "Vancouver! This is it!" mayday call; KOMO-4's Dave Crockett videoblogging his escape after being caught near the blast, overwhelmed by ash, losing the company Granada and filming his escape on foot; stories of loggers & campers caught in ashfall, mudflows, anything. 44,000 acres of trees knocked down like toothpicks. The summit sliding down to Spirit Lake, taking it and Mr. Truman with it all. 1,327 feet of the perfect conical summit, gone into a ghastly crater. Nobody expected it to erupt like that.
In early August of the same year, while watching "Sha Na Na" (remember that?) on KOMO, a news bulletin banner kicked in, announcing St. Helens erupted and the ash was coming north. My parents, ever the pessimists, said we wouldn't get any...next morning, the clear blue sky had an eerie tint to it, Mt. Pilchuck was almost obscured and if you looked close enough, you could see grey flecks falling. And looking around, all cars were getting coated with a thin veneer of ash. So with 12 tall Gerber baby food jars and a cloth diaper, I went about g-e-n-t-l-y moving ash off cars into the jars, totally filling them. These got sent to all my pen-pals all over the US, who became instantly famous in their schools. It was one heck of a summer!