Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 18'th , 1980 , 3:30 pst.

I believe it was a quiet Sunday afternoon.

For some reason Doty had given me the weekend off from the Campus switchboard and I was in my cute ( TINY) apt in the brick 6 plex below the WSU power plant..probably watching tv.

The sky got dark, and at first I thought ..crap...rain.

It became darker unbelievably quickly and I noticed that outside my window, I swore it looked like snow.

I ran outside more curious than anything else , and realized that it wasn't wasn't snow and there was not one sound anywhere.

No birds.
No dogs.
No cats.
No insects.
No trains .
No cars.


Still not sure what the hell was going on, I wasn't afraid, and I went back in the apt to find my 2 cats, Msi and Oogie under the bed, as far back and as small as they could make their 4 and 5 year old selves be.

Then the Civil Defense sirens began to scream from the campus..all the louder for the fact that they were the ONLY sound to be heard.

This meant one thing...I had to get up the hill on foot ( my soon to be ex husband had the Vega station wagon in Walla Walla.) and get to work. The next few hours are a blur as we ran on pure nerves and awful break room coffee trying to figure out what was happening.

I found out that Mt. St Helens had erupted..and still , it really didn't register...Nothing registered except the panic on the other end of each phone call that I answered, from students , their parents and staff members. I cannot tell you to this day what Del Brannen told us to say much less what my supervisor added to it..if anything. You had to know Doty after all.

I can recall the Colfax county police cruisers blowing up because they didn't realize that the ash would clog the engines air filters..KABOOM . Their solution finally was to cut the hose part off of panty hose ( a spanx pre-cursor ) and fir the top over the filters.

I don't remember any embarrassment as I came home through the ash for what seemed like weeks on end and stripped down to my skivvies outside so that I could hose down my clothes and then myself. No one cared. We had to do this because the ash and the silica would clog and rupture the water lines and trash the washing machines.

I do know that the ash trashed the texture of my face and it has never been the same, but at my age ( 56)..middle age has other challenges and there is always a facial out there with my name on it.

My mother of course was beside herself, not quite getting that it wasn't in my back yard. Thankfully I have not inherited her geographical sense of proportion...and know there was a bit of distance between the Mt. and Pullman , Washington , even if she didn't down in Daly City, California where she lived. Looking back now, it was funny...back then , she just irritated the living hell out of me.

Oh yes you did mother !

Every year Sistah and I watch the clock on this day and remember.

What a life.


Aunty Pol

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