Roger Brown's Story
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The morning of May 18, 1980 my sister came into my home excitedly telling me that the mountain was exploding. Well, I didn't want to miss that so I drove to the top of the hill where I could see that she was right. So I went back to the house, grabbed my camera, jumped into my car and sped to the Kelso airport. I quickly got into my Cessna 172 plane with three friends that were standing by and headed for Mt.St. Helens|
I was able to fly within two miles of the cloud of ash and smoke bellowing out of the mountain. Over the next 7 or 8 hours, only stopping for fuel and more film, I was able to take all sorts of pictures from every angle. It was an awesome and incredible sight to behold! The forces of nature were incredible! The smell of rotten eggs was often noticed as the hydrogen sulfites belched up into the air. Destruction was everywhere beneath me. Due to the numbers of aircraft out in the sky that day, the fixed wing airplanes were requested to stay above 5000 feet. Helicopters were flying in the lower levels in their rescue efforts that day.
When the dust had settled, and the pictures were developed I realized I had something that people were wanting. A piece of history was captured on the film I had exposed during those long hours. Over the next year I was able to sell sets of pictures to many people over the northwest and occasionally outside of the area. Folks are still looking back at that day and reminiscing through the pictures.
About a month later my friend Larry Quick and I went up in his helicopter to take some more pictures of the devastated landscape. We were very fascinated with the intense colors left behind in the pools and lakes which had settled after the eruption. The trees had been violently slammed to the ground, shattering the wood. They lay there like matchsticks, blown over by the violent force of the winds and heat. The land, once so familiar to us, took on an entirely different personality. It was like meeting a stranger where there had once been a friend.
The devastation is just a memory now as reforestation and nature have cleaned up the area. There are still reminders, but the pictures tell much more.
Click here to see more of Mr. Brown's photos.
Lewisriver.com would like to thank the Browns for sharing these incredible pictures.
The photos remain the exclusive property of Mr. Brown.
Title image courtesy of USGS.
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