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KHS Board Member Marella Alejandrino remembers …

Growing up in the Ballard neighborhood and being a native of Seattle, I certainly took for granted as a child the beautiful and majestic nature that surrounded me. I grew up in an era where you played and spent as much time as you could outside and my backdrop was the Puget Sound at Golden Gardens, the view of the Olympic Mountains and hiking trails at Discovery Park.

I was 15 years old when Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980 and it will forever be one of those moments most of us have where something significant occurred and we remember where we were at the time and how it made us feel.
The day before the eruption, May 17th, was a Saturday so as a typical teenager I was spending the night at a friend’s house. Her father had driven us to the movies that night and bought us tickets to see “All that Jazz”. I was feeling very grown up since this was the first rated R movie I had been allowed to go to as a teenager.

I remember waking up mid-morning and seeing the television coverage of the eruption which had happened a few hours earlier and not really understanding the magnitude of this event. We were glued to the coverage for hours and I remember thinking it felt like I was watching something out of a movie, I had never experienced a natural disaster like this so close to home and I was awestruck. All the ash that covered everything looked unreal to me, almost like something from a science fiction movie.

Harry Randall Truman

I recall being fascinated with the story of Harry Randall Truman, the 83 year old man who lived near the mountain with his 16 cats and perished after he refused to leave prior to the eruption.  He had done a few television interviews before he died that were aired over and over and I thought about what it would be like to love a place so much that you were willing to die there instead of leaving.

The eruption’s magnitude was immense- the death toll was 57, 3.7 billion cubic yards of the mountain were blasted away, 24 megatons of energy was released which was more energy than what the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the ground temperature reached as high as 1,300 degrees F. in places.

Worth a visit

I had a chance last summer to camp at Seaquest State Park in Castle Rock, WA which is home to the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center. It was a bit overcast when we were camping so we never were able to see the very top of the mountain. It’s a beautiful part of Washington State and I would recommend a trip to the Center to learn more about the eruption which is considered the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in U.S. History and to also see the recovery of the area’s second growth forest and animal life.

You can also visit the Mount St. Helens Science & Learning Center at

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia

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