National Geographic : 2000 May
"When the eruntion is over. its not over-the the crosses, including Ty and Marianna Kear ney, ham radio operators from Vancouver. They had fled their watch post west of the mountain just ahead of a speeding wave of ash-and just after receiving a final radio message from Gerry Martin, a fellow watcher: "It's going to get me...." On the first anniversary of the eruption William Parker's truck was retrieved by friends. "They brought it home, blew the ash off the valve covers, and put in a new battery," Donna said. "It started right up. We gave it to them, his fishing buddies, and they restored it. The last I heard it was still running somewhere in Alaska." The vision of that truck chugging away in Alaska is cheering to those bereaved or traumatized by the eruption. I think I under stand this because I became more personally involved in this story than in any other I ever wrote. Another assignment had brought me to the area for the first tentative stirrings of the mountain; then circumstances kept me there. Over a period of weeks I acquired a car ing stake in many lives. I knew some people who died, or who lost loved ones or narrowly escaped themselves. I knew that many still had trouble accepting the momentous changes. From the porch of her home beside Silver Lake, Gladys Dodge Robards, 87, had witnessed the event 30 miles away. As a girl she worked summers at Harmony Falls Lodge on Spirit Lake at the foot of Mount St. Helens, and she loved the area. Her son John had told her about the devastation, including the huge landslide. Among other consequences, the landslide raised Spirit Lake's surface by 200 feet, bury ing not only the lodge but also its 150-foot namesake waterfall. John wondered why she had never asked to go and see the remade landscape, not even when the Johnston Ridge Observatory opened just five miles from the crater. This visitor center features a 16-minute film on the volcano, then the screen is raised to reveal a giant picture window framing the actual mountain. "One day I just drove my mother to the Johnston Ridge visitor center," John said. "I took her in to see the movie. When it ended and the screen was raised, showing the crater, she cried. I think for the first time she really accepted what had happened." SHERE WAS A MAN who said he'd rather die than see his beautiful mountain blasted into an ugly shell of itself-and he got his wish. Despite many chances to evacuate, Harry R. Truman chose to remain at his St. Helens Lodge on Spirit Lake. He is there yet, together with his multitude of cats and, at last report, 38 bottles of bourbon, all buried under hundreds of feet of landslide debris and ele vated lake waters. For half a century Harry had loved the mountain, communing with it in spirit. "I talk to the mountain, and it talks to me," he would say. He and his wife, Edna, ran the inn for an increasing fan club of vacationers, including the late William O. Douglas, Supreme Court justice, author, and world traveler. Harry's tal ents included a gift (Continuedon page 121) Time is demolishing a car left near Meta Lake by gold pros pectors killed in the lateral blast. All told, 57 people lost their lives. Mark Smith (left, at left) and his family lost their livelihood, the Spirit Lake Lodge. Today they run a tent-and-breakfast on log ging land just outside the monument. "We haven't abandoned the mountain," he says. "We've learned to adapt and work with it."