Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mt. St. Helens

30 years ago today, Mt. St. Helens erupted. I vividly remember this as a kid, and recall spending all day watching the news coverage on teevee and reading about it in TIME magazine that came to our house every week.

Seeing footage of the eruption always gives me chills. I mean, take a look at this –

and tell me that you are not awestruck by the incredible dormant power in nature. Does it not make you feel puny and insignificant?

As I watched this for the first time in a few years, some passages from the Book of Job came to mind:

Where were you when I founded the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its size; do you know?
Who stretched out the measuring line for it?

Into what were its pedestals sunk,
And who laid the cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang in chorus
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

And who shut within doors the sea,
When it burst forth from the womb;
When I made the clouds its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling bands?
When I set limits for it
And fastened the bar of its door,
And said: Thus far shall you come but no farther,
And here shall your proud waves be stilled!

Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning
And shown the dawn its place
For taking hold of the ends of the earth,
Till the wicked are shaken from its surface?
The earth is changed as is clay by the seal,
And dyed as though it were a garment …

(Job 37:4-14)

This is what Mt. St. Helens looked like on Saturday, May 17, 1980, the day before the eruption.

This picture was taken by volcanologist Harry Glicken, who was scheduled to observe the mountain on May 18 but took the day off to interview with a college. His replacement, David Johnston, was killed at the observation post moments after the eruption. His body was never found.

This is a picture taken two years later from the same approximate location.

57 people were killed that morning thirty years ago, including an 83-year-old inn keeper named Harry R. Truman, who refused to heed warnings to evacuate. His body, too, was never found, presumably buried under 150 feet of volcanic ash and debris.

So sad, and frightening.

(Note: Glicken himself was killed observing an eruption of a Japanese volcano in 1991. Who knew of the courage of these uncommon men in their quest for understanding?)

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