Twenty-five years ago, I experienced my first cancelled day of school.
I used to remember a lot more details about the day, but as the years have gone on, the memories of May 18, 1980, have been replaced with other more recent memories. But I do specifically remember two things from that cancelled day–
My mother calling for me to come inside because it was too dangerous, which confused me because how could falling snow be dangerous?
My father telling me not to come out from the garage as he shoveled the snow off of the driveway with the snow shovel, his face covered in a surgical mask. He then started to sweep it off the grass, which I thought was very weird. He filled a jelly jar of it for me, and told me I could keep it, but not to play with it. At last check, it’s still at the house, stored in the basement with a few of my things.
The jar, obviously, wasn’t filled with snow. It was filled with a light gray colored ash that looked like sand.
There wasn’t a lot of it on the ground where we were in Montana, according to my parents– a dusting of maybe half an inch or so. The sky didn’t get black as it did further west, but my dad has said that it did get dimmer, in that overcast, foggy day color (much like we’re having today in Massachusetts). But it was enough to cancel school, since most of us walked home, and inhaling volanic ash isn’t a good idea.
I honestly don’t remember when I didn’t know of Mount St. Helens. Sometime very shortly after it exploded, the name of the mountain that had blown up became part of my geographical knowledge– before I even understood where Washington and Oregon were. I knew it had blown up, but it went sideways instead of up. I knew that it wasn’t red with fire, but grey and muddy. Do five-year-olds generally know much about volcanos?
We must have learned something in school following the event, and it was stuck in my head or something. (sort of like the “there are forty-seven and a half Rhode Islands in Montana” from some time in grade school… which I’ve been slightly amused by remembering these days, given my moving plans).
I remember later looking at pictures of the volanco region, seeing trees that were blown over like matchsticks. I was amazed at how some areas were completely untouched, yet others were completely destroyed. Over the years, we’d hear rumors about strange, alien creatures that had evolved in Spirit Lake. To this day, I don’t know what is real with those rumors, and which were created for the sleepover ghost stories. I have to guess that the brain sucking amoeba is probably a myth.
Or is it?
It’s strange how weird events like that stick with a person. Even if I don’t remember much of it anymore, that image of my father with the snow shovel and his surgical mask sticks in my brain.
Don’t know much about what happened? Check it out here.