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Milestones
by Isaak Szymanczyk

Every few years, fate drops an event on us that is just too big to forget, the kind of thing that makes you stop and think. Often it gets stamped into your memory. Forever after that, you remember where you were, what you were doing, what you were wearing, even specific sounds and smells.

Everybody and their aunt can tell you where they were in 1963 when they heard JFK had been shot. Some can tell you where they were when World War II ended. But for those of us who weren’t around to experience those events, we have few memorable milestones to carry. Sure, New Year’s 1999 was a big one, but not like we all thought.

Back in 1987, I made a "pact" (long since dissolved) with my best friends at the time to plan for the big night: December 31, 1999. No matter what, we were going to get together for the turning of the millennium and have a "freaking huge party." Talk about the delusions of youth. It’s funny how things don’t always turn out the way you’d expect. I wonder how many of those friends were also cowering in their basements that night, shotguns in hand, surrounded by beans, batteries, bullets, and 1200 cans of Vienna sausages? Wouldn’t go so heavy on the sausages next time. No one should have that many. Trust me.

But recently, we had the opportunity to reflect on a recent milestone marker. May 18, 2000, was the 20th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens. For much of the world, that day 20 years ago was front page news. For people living in the Northwest, it was literally earthshaking. Out of curiosity about the memories this particular milestone evokes, I asked people if they remembered what they were doing. Nearly everyone had a story, right down to the exact thoughts and words that they had at the time. Feel free to send yours in, if you remember it, and we’ll put it in a pile with the rest.

Some of the responses we got:

"I was in my 6th grade class in Hawaii when our teacher told us about it. I remember wondering where in the heck Mt. St Helens was."

"I remember I was in Mrs. Kelly’s first grade class (she was cool because she had a pet tarantula in the room, contained within an aquarium of course). She visited Washington after the eruption and brought us each back a pill container filled with ash. I also remember thinking Washington was so far away, as I was then living near the Mexican border."

"I was camping, then came to southwestern Washington two weeks after the blast. The entire Northwest was covered in ash. A former commander of mine was a search and rescue guy in St. Helens park when it happened - talk about intensity. Another friend was teaching basic rappelling on Mt. Rainier. Looking from his position at St. Helens he thought, "Is this one next?"

"Mount St. Helen’s was in my backyard growing up.... seriously. My parents house is near the base of it and our windows look out over it to this day. Like most people, we watched it from the "safe" south side. We camped, hiked and fished it both before the blast and still today. It is one of the most awesome things to grow up near an active volcano that has the potential to humble you at any time."

"I had just finished my undergrad work in Dallas and was getting ready to move to Toronto to start my career in the motion picture industry. Took a wrong turn in Dubuque and ended up in the advertising/PR business. Glad to see I’m finally getting back on track."

"It was my little sister’s fourth birthday, and she was all dressed up, spinning around on the lawn with her new parasol. My folks were drinking coffee on the porch, and the whole house shook when it blew. My dad said, "That was a sonic boom, kids." My mom, "BOY, that was a loud one!"

"I was in England. We used to run around naked on the football pitch a lot for some reason, as such I didn’t hear about Mt. St. Helens until 96 when I moved here. Still don’t believe the part about it looking like a mountain before the blow. I have however been in a real live volcanic explosion in Anchorage. Boy was it hot."

"I was being poddy trained."

"Um, I was two years old. Amazingly enough, I have a strange memory of the TV screen. Must be one of my earliest. Strange, huh? BTW: Have you heard about the two recent earthquakes below the surface of Mt. Hood?"

"Mount St. Helen’s was in my backyard growing up.... seriously. My parents house is near the base of it and our windows look out over it to this day. Like most people, we watched it from the "safe" south side. We camped, hiked and fished it both before the blast and still today. It is one of the most awesome things to grow up near an active volcano that has the potential to humble you at any time."

 

 

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