Throughout my life, I had seen Mt. St. Helens in the distance. We called it the “ice cream cone” mountain to distinguish it from Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams which we could also see on clear days. On May 18, 1980, the mountain, which turned out to be an active volcano, blew its top. Ash fell all over Portland, clogging air filters, filling gutters with heavy grit, and startling everyone.
We had a faculty planning meeting several days after that eruption. No one knew what the future held for the mountain. Was it done exploding? It was still steaming and rumbling, so scientists couldn’t get too near yet. Did the explosion of St. Helens foretell the eruption of Mt. Hood, so far dormant? What about other “dormant” sites around us.
We planned for the following school year, but only after the then dean of the college had said, “If we are even here next year.” That was not deep pessimism, but rather an accurate response to the eruption. We felt for some time that if a mountain could change so dramatically in one morning, who knew what else could happen.
The mountain did quiet down. Mt. Hood didn’t explode. And I taught there for another 22 years.