Read a moving account of surviving (and dying on) Mount St. Helens

At National Geographic, you can read Rowe Findley's 1981 account of surviving the Mount St. Helens eruption — and his deeply moving profiles of many of the people who did not. Includes this seminal quote from 83-year-old Harry R. Truman, who Findley describes as raising "the adjectival use of profanity to a new high": "It's a part of me, and I'm part of that ______ mountain," said Truman. "If I got out of here, I wouldn't live a _____ day, not a ______ day."


  1. Mr. Truman appeared to have a monumental lack of appreciation for his situation.  He seemed to believe he was going to survive.  He paid lip service to the possibility of dying, but expressed a sense of invulnerability. “I’m king of all I survey….I’m settin’ high on the @#* hog.” Lucky for him, he probably had no idea he was wrong before reality ended the debate.

  2. I watched the whole spectacle from my living room window. We had four or five inches of ash on the ground by the time it was finished. I was young then but to me Harry was an unmovable object facing what I think he knew was an irresistible force. He understood that we all die someday and that since the death of his wife I think he felt his best days were behind him. That mountain is a part of me as well. I have been exploring her lava tubes for many years and this friday I will be with my youngest daughter as she takes her first trip into the darkness of the Ape Cave on a school fieldtrip. I still have ash from that day and a few bits of the pyroclastic lava bombs that rained down much closer to the mountain. I am grateful to have been witness to the eruption and the rebirth of the area since.

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