A friend of mine in Redding used to live in a trailer near the southern border of Washington State in the beginning of the 1980's. In 1980, he was in his trailer when Mt. St. Helens decided to wake up after many decades of calm.. Apparently he lived a good distance from the volcano, because on May 18, 1980, the mountain erupted.
I have a hard time trying to comprehend 230 square miles of pyroclastic flow, or plumes of volcanic ash shooting over twelve miles above sea level. Yet, for me, this was a news story that settled on California television screens, and shy of my tenth birthday, I could hardly imagine what devastation was involved. My friend was in his twenties, and much closer to the action. From his trailer, he watched as bricks of hot ash landed outside his home, leaving him stuck inside until the bulk of volcanic fallout stopped.
At the age of ten, I did not realize what hot ash falling from the sky was like. Kids traveling through Washington would bring home- as a souvenir- a small jar of authentic ash from the eruption of St. Helens. Back then, I thought the eruption was an isolated event. Only now, three decades later do I understand that the activity of that mountain continued for months before quieting down.
The only volcanoes I ever experienced have been quiet for decades. For a short three years, I lived in Redding, California, wedged in between two active volcanoes, Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen. These two mountains form the southern tip of the Cascade Volcanic Arc. Neither of them have erupted in over a hundred years, so the ever-growing communities within Shasta County feel relatively safe.
So, I get online, and talk of my desire to walk again. I express this by affirming my desire to hike a volcano. I still have the interest. Just in the past weeks, though, I learned of the eruption of Gunung Merapi near Yogyakarta in Indonesia. Just seventeen months ago, I stayed at a hotel in Yogyakarta. I was taken on a tour, where I got to view Gunung Merapi up close. Videos and t-shirts bill it as the world's most deadly volcano. I can't be sure what standard was used to make that statement, but I am sure t-shirts touting a 'reasonably dangerous volcano' could be challenging to sell.
(follow this link for pictures taken after the Mount Merapi explosion)
I have gotten reports of the ongoing eruptions of Merapi. . For me, the eruption would have hastened my exit from the city. But for the people in the nearby areas, Yogyakarta is forced to create shelter for several hundred people. The air quality has declined due to the eruptions, and evacuation of several homes in Yogyakarta has also taken place. While staying in these shelters, many will wonder what to expect when they return home.
I met many beautiful people during my short visit, and it is sad to know that it may be a long time before life in Central Java can return to normal.
Thank you for reading.