By Lisa Perry (Clark when it happened)
I was 19 years old in 1980. My boyfriend at the time, Bud, wanted to go up to Mount St. Helens and explore. He grew up in the Battle Ground area and knew the area pretty well.
We left his house in southeast Portland and stopped in downtown Battle Ground for breakfast. We heard that the mountain blew, and Bud said we should go to Larch Mountain to see if we could get close to it.
We got up to Larch Mountain, and there were a few cars in a dirt area. You had to walk the rest of the way. We got to the top, and could see Mount St. Helens close enough to see lightning in the ash cloud erupting from the mountain. I remember thinking that it looked so fake, like something you would see in a movie. I also remember that as more and more people arrived, no one really talked. There wasn’t any noise, just people riveted to the view. We stayed awhile. I don’t remember how long. Then we left and just went about our day.
When I was about 25, I worked at a high-tech company and became friends with Kari. Kari had a group of friends I would hang out with once in a while, and one of the group was Mike. He and I dated for a while and then broke up. Mike got back together with his ex-girlfriend, Roxanne. I later found out that Roxanne’s sister and mother were killed that day in May 1980. Her mom was taking pictures, and her sister went along.
About 15 years or so ago, it really hit me about how I had spent that day. Out with my boyfriend and then being able to see Mount St. Helens like most people couldn’t see it because they weren’t close enough. How we were lucky we didn’t get up there earlier. And how Roxanne’s sister and mother were killed the same day that I was seeing the most amazing thing in my life. I think I was close to the age of Roxanne’s sister.
And maybe for the first time, I thought about how it really could have been me, too. I could have been killed that day if Bud and I hadn’t stopped for breakfast. Or gotten up later than we planned. Or whatever caused us to be later than the eruption. I don’t believe in fate or destiny. Just timing. Mine was really good that day.