My Brush With Mount St. Helens

by Sharon Maeda

May 18, 1980 was a beautiful sunny morning. I left SeaTac Airport for a trip to Los Angeles. I was a finalist for a job and although it was a great opportunity, I didn’t particularly have any interest in living in “Lalaland.” So, I booked a flight that gave me enough time to get to a Venice Beach hotel for the interview, a meal along the boardwalk, back to the airport and home to Seattle in a one-day trip. 

As we took off from SeaTac, the pilot announced that we had received clearance to circle Mount St. Helens to see the steam. He told us to stay in our seats as we would be circling two times, giving everyone a chance to take photos. We could see the thin line of steam and the rim of the crater. 

I always checked to see who else was on the plane: elected officials, celebrities and interesting people. That day, I ran into former King Broadcasting executive, Eric Bremner. We chatted a bit about my job interview and he wished me luck. But, no big time celebrities, so I was puzzled when we got off the plane and TV crews were waiting at the end of the runway. 

 “Did you see it?!” they asked excitedly. We had no idea. We quickly learned that our flight was the only one near Mount St. Helens when it blew. Yikes, if we had been circling that low to the mountain just minutes later, we might have been blown to bits. 

When I got home, there was no ash on my car/house just off of Genesee in the Rainier Valley. We had not yet heard the number of lives lost or the scope of the destruction. Somehow, in the 40 years since, and many, many trips down I-5, I’ve never made it to Mount St. Helens. 

Sharon Maeda is Interim Managing Editor of the Emerald. She ended up taking that job in LA and served as executive director of Pacifica Radio for six years. 

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