Mount St. Helens erupted four years before I was welcomed into this planet, but I have heard the stories of the eruption well — especially from my parents, born just nine days before the big blast.
Today marks 33 years since the mountain blew, and every year that passes sees more life regenerate in an area that was blown desolate by the force of the blast. Fifty-seven people perished, numerous homes were lost and ash spread throughout the atmosphere of Earth.
One of those who died in the eruption was Harry R. Truman, the owner of the Spirit Lake Lodge, situated in the shadow of the mountain. Harry was 83, stubborn and was not going to leave the lodge despite repeated attempts from authorities and news media to do so. The mountain was a part of him, he said, and it wasn’t going to blow.
Of course, Harry was wrong, and the mountain claimed him, his lodge and the whole of Spirit Lake. The entire face of southwest Washington state was changed.
KING-TV in Seattle did this interview with Harry in the days preceding the eruption:
Here’s a radio interview with Harry, adamantly proclaiming “it’s heavily timbered” and the mountain wouldn’t destroy him — and he wasn’t leaving:
Harry R. Truman is a folk hero to those who live near the mountain, and his legend spread in the days after the eruption. The Oregonian captured his essence well in this video they created in 2010:
God bless Harry Truman and the memories of everyone that died in that blast. Every time I see that mountain in person, I think of what it would have been like to travel to the Spirit Lake Lodge and listen to the man tell his stories. Must have been quite the experience.
Today was not a normal soccer day for the Portland Timbers. The team is preparing to face the New England Revolution in an MLS match tomorrow at home, but today they had another game — a very important one in its own right.
The Timbers faced off against the Mt. Tabor Soccer Club Green Machine, the team a young 8-year-old boy plays for. The boy, eight-year-old Atticus, had a wish granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation after going through cancer treatments last year to play soccer against the Portland Timbers — and what a game it was.
More than 3,000 members of the Timbers Army showed up. The Army was as loud as usual, but this time it was to support the Green Machine with banners, songs and other urgings. It was impressive. Just take a look through these posts from folks using Vine.
One of the best and most important presents I ever received from my parents was a Sony cassette radio and recorder for Christmas in 1995.
The Sony CFM-10 was rather simplistic, its sound quality was adequate — but its redeeming feature to me was its ability to record straight from the radio to a cassette tape.
My parents had one stipulation with that device: Absolutely no using it after bedtime, which at that point in my life was 9 p.m. Harsh, I thought, but rules are rules — and rules are made to be broken, right?
I broke that rule good and well when I listened to our local Longview, Washington Top 40 radio station, KLYK Magic 105.5, when suddenly a track came on that I would never forget.
In a west end town, a dead end world
The east end boys and west end girls
In a west end town, a dead end world
The east end boys and west end girls
West end girls
I threw in a glorious recordable cassette tape, and I swore I fumbled around with it because my mom asked me all the way from the living room (remember: to a 12-year-old kid, our house was pretty decent-sized) what I was doing. “Nothing” was my token reply, then I popped the tape in there, turned the radio all the way to its lowest audible volume and listened to the song.
You got a heart of glass or a heart of stone
Just you wait till I get you home…
Once the song ended, I played it back again and ensured the recording of the Pet Shop Boys’ 1985 hit “West End Girls” would be seared into my memory.
That was my method of discovering new music in 1996. Throw in a cassette tape, listen to the radio and record a song I thought was cool. It was piracy in its purest and arguably least-prosecutable form, and it was glorious.
It was glorious because I had absolutely no control over what I heard — for all I cared and knew, the music was beaming down to my bedroom randomly. I put my hope for good music in the hands of a daytime DJ and the nighttime syndicated programming that came from the East Coast and translated to the station on Longview’s 14th Avenue.
Things were about to change in a big way, however. See, in 1996, MP3 music files (music on your computer!!!) were just beginning to become popular, and just three years later, the most revolutionary software of its time — although simple in its execution — would take the online community by storm. Napster was released to the masses, file sharing ensued and I suddenly had copies of nearly every song I wanted on a computer I had built from spare parts.
Of course, Rainier, Oregon in 1999 was still on the outer fringes of the rapid advance of technology, meaning we had to download anything from the Internet over a 56K modem. But the capability to listen to and share music digitally was revolutionized, and I enjoyed every minute of it with Napster and Winamp.
Who doesn’t remember the Winamp intro song, by the way?
As if having music on your computer wasn’t awesome enough, I would blow copious amounts of cash and buy CDs that I could “burn” said music onto. Hey, if I couldn’t share my pirated DJ mixes with all my Rainier friends over Napster, I could sure burn them a CD and exchange it with them in a secret handshake at the science hall in Rainier High School.
Everything came to a head my junior year of high school when my friend Paul showed me some software called Sonic Foundry ACID, a digital audio workstation in which you could essentially take sounds, loop them and even plug a keyboard in and create your very own music.
RAD. I remember getting a copy of it somehow, making beats and Chicago house-styled tracks that proved very unpopular with my peers. But hey, Daft Punk was becoming popular in 2001 — and it wouldn’t be long before I would try to recreate the hook from their track “One More Time” in my own bedroom, much to the chagrin and annoyance of my parents and brother (sorry, fam).
Pause for a second: Whoa, someone discovered how Daft Punk did their thing a few years ago. Whoever knew a track named “More Spell on You” by Eddie Johns was the source of inspiration for “One More Time”? Pretty clear sample, anyway:
Then in November 2001, my senior year of high school, much of the civilized world was abuzz about this new digital audio player called the iPod. Apparently you could take the same music you had on your computer and put it on this device, take it anywhere and play it through the headphone jack. Portable digital music without CDs? Brilliant!
Of course, no one in Rainier had an iPod the first year it was released (correct me if I’m wrong, high school classmates), so I never utilized one until early 2003. That’s partly due to me going into the Air Force and leaving civilization behind for a time, but also because iPods were expensive then. Ten gigabytes of music was a LOT OF MUSIC then.
Early 2003 would bring about the time that would revolutionize the entire music industry. In April, the death knell sounded for chain stores that sold CDs like crazy, as Apple’s iTunes software introduced a digital store of its own. The idea was awesome, and you could shop right from the comfort of your desk and chair. Only 200,000 or so songs were available then, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted how large the service would grow, or how quickly mobile devices would come to the forefront of our culture.
Ten years after iTunes’ initial release, more than 25 billion (read: 25,000,000,000) songs have been sold through the iTunes Store, and the service offers TV shows, movies, etc. that we can all watch on these tiny screens in the palm of our hands.
This is all occurring 17 years after I first popped in that cassette to record “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys. Musical discovery then was magical; today all we need to do is open the iTunes Store — or for many, better yet, open Pandora or Spotify and check the Radio function to find music tailor-made to one’s taste.
As the tech world has made music discovery easier and brought an endless stream of content to us literally wherever we can get a cellular connection with a mobile device, it has forcefully closed shut an era in which music discovery was sacred simply because the listener had no control over how they found something new and enjoyable. Instead of finding music one enjoyed by chance, one can in effect get an endless radio station of their own tastes with the entry of a search term.
That’s fascinating, and I bid the iTunes Store a happy 10th birthday — but really, there’s a macabre nature to it. I wish I could bring out that old radio, turn the dial to Magic 105 and pop in another cassette. The East End boys and West End girls are calling once again.
I was blessed to live most of my life in an area that hosts a wide range of scenery, from the coast to the Cascades. I grew up in the shadow of Mount St. Helens, the volcano that erupted in 1980.
In the winter and early spring, the mountain is all but inaccessible to the casual tourist — but more adventurous folk can still get climbing passes and enjoy an unparalleled view of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. But yesterday, I was indeed a casual tourist, so I took the rental car up State Route 504 as far east as I could go.
The Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center and Johnston Ridge Observatory don’t open until late May, so SR 504 was closed at the Hummocks Trail. Snow lined both sides of the road, but the highway was clear, making it an easy drive. There weren’t too many people up there, so I was able to pull my car to the side of the road in many places I wouldn’t normally be able to, in order to get a good shot.
It is tough to believe it has been two years since the town I grew up in lost its police chief in one of the most difficult days I’ve witnessed in my life.
I was born across the river in Longview, Washington, but I spent eighteen years in the relative calm of Rainier, Oregon and the surrounding wooded areas. The sleepiness of the little hamlet by the Columbia River leads one to believe that all is okay and nothing catastrophic could ever strike our community. Everybody knows everybody, takes a sense of ownership of our town and shows a genuine care for one another.
I was working on a story at The Chronicle in Centralia, Washington when I saw a Tweet from a Portland television station that there was an officer-involved shooting in Rainier. That in itself was enough to change my mental state to one of disbelief, then I was shocked when I turned the TV to KATU and saw a visibly shaken Sheriff Jeff Dickerson give a news conference confirming an officer had died in a struggle at the Rainier Sound Authority shop.
It was all too surreal that this was happening in my town. My town — the one that I grew up in, the one that had been so good to me, the one that I carry such great memories of — and the peace I knew for eighteen years there had been shattered on Jan. 5, 2011.
It couldn’t happen here, I thought, but it just did.
The public would later find out the officer killed was Chief Ralph Painter. A second wave of disbelief came over me, and although I didn’t know Chief Painter well at all, I grieved because I knew he had touched the lives of many in my town, and I grieved knowing he left behind a wife and sons and daughters.
I drove down to Rainier multiple times in the days following the incident, passing by City Hall which was home to both the library and police station as well. One of the largest memorials I had ever seen stretched from the sidewalk adjoining Highway 30 — B Street as it is known in Rainier — to the top of the steps leading to the door of City Hall. I will never forget hugging a few folks and shedding a few tears of my own in front of that building.
I also remember speaking to various members of the Portland television media as well, who showed tremendous respect for the people of my town. That spoke volumes to me.
It felt like someone had collectively taken the wind out of the town, but I also got the sense that everyone realized the need for each other in the days following the tragedy. The night that a procession came through town carrying Painter’s body from the medical examiner’s office to a funeral home west of town, there was an incredible sense of grief among those of us lined up on the sidewalk, but also a sense of resolve to care for one another.
I remember the incredible scenes shown by television media during the procession to Chief Painter’s funeral in Portland. The streets of Rainier, St. Helens and Scappoose were lined with people who came out to pay their respects. Others stood alongside Highway 30 from their homes and saluted as dozens of police cars went by.
My career has taken me to Springfield, Missouri now, but I returned home last July for a visit, driving through my town once again. I noticed that a large sign on U.S. Highway 30 just east of Rockcrest Street declares the stretch of highway from there into St. Helens, 20 miles away, the Police Chief Ralph Painter Memorial Highway. That designation was passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2011.
It’s been two years now since that terrible day, and today I look on my Facebook home page and see the numerous posts of people I went to school with and knew from Rainier, verbalizing their remembrances of Chief Painter. It is comforting and reassuring to know that such a large group of people, though we might have all moved away and gone onto our separate careers and lives, are still united across the miles with a deep care for our community, especially at a time like this.
I personally will remember Chief Painter for the couple of times I had run into him by chance, and I remember that he was a very kind man whom you could tell cared so much for his community and wanted to help everyone in it however possible.
I regret not getting the chance to know him better.
Today I pray for the people of my town, and I continue to pray for the Lord’s peace and healing for the family and friends of Chief Painter. He left a legacy that still lives on in the community there, and it is apparent each time you even so much as pass through Rainier, Oregon.
I am proud to have served in the U.S. Air Force for four years.
In the fervor of a post-9/11 world, I did what I thought I’d never do and joined up when I was 17. On November 26, 2002, I went to basic training in Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and four years later I packed my belongings and drove to Oregon with a few medals and a few pieces of paper saying some good things about me for my trouble.
I’m a veteran and I’m proud of my service, and I am so grateful to have met some dear friends that I still talk with often today, although time and space separate us all. From working the microphone at the Lajes Field radio station to shooting news stories in southeastern Iraq, I had some good opportunities to travel on the government’s (read: taxpayers’) dime.
But I still struggle with one thing from my service, and it’s the fact that my entire life was altered when I went off to Iraq. Sure, I saw some rockets fly, we drove in missions through dangerous cities, and I met some folks that I never saw again for one reason or another, but at least for me, all that paled in comparison to this:
Many people I had considered close for years said they’d call, write, etc., and never did. The precious few that did, however, are people that I highly respect and owe my life to.
I actually remember one of the people I once respected, asking me about my service in Iraq upon my return home — and when I told them I was a broadcaster and I carried a rifle in one hand and my Sony PD-150 in the other, this person began to tell me a loved one of theirs did on missions themselves, not even giving me an acknowledgment that they even heard me talk about my experience.
As if their experience trumped mine in some way.
Way to tell me what you thought of my service to my country.
Then again, I remembered distinctly a time one soldier told me a sobering quote as we both stood outside a tent in a remote part of Iraq — and he looked into the distance when we talked about his team’s mission:
They only remember and respect you when you’re dead, man.
Makes sense, I thought. You come home in a casket and they rename stuff in your hometown after you. Come home alive and everyone pats you on the head, gives you a hug, buys you a drink, then leaves you to your own world again that you’re struggling so hard to reacquaint yourself with.
Sure, everyone says thanks and that they care, but do they want to help you heal? Can they help you heal?
I have a hard time believing that, respectively, they do and they can. People thank me for my service to my country and I smile, nod, tell them I appreciate their kindness — and in my heart of hearts, I try to believe they are genuine.
I want so badly to be sure they are. There’s a reason I don’t share some of my stories with anyone, and it’s because they just don’t understand. They never will.
I gave up on trying to share my experiences at a time last year when someone who was close to someone I was close to at the time told me to my face she agreed with the war in Iraq because we needed the oil.
Which leads me to another topic, and this is the icing on the cake: My disagreeance with the politics behind the war I served in. That’s the ultimate heart-wrencher for me. I have a lot of respect and I’d stand with anyone who put on the uniform to go over to Iraq, but as to why we’re there, I’m not so sure I agree with it.
All these conflicting thoughts about the war and my service in the military amount to a tremendous burden to bear, and I know there are others in the same boat and in even worse mental shape than I about the whole thing.
I guess in the end I’m still working on giving the whole thing up to God, as they say. Time will tell if He actually reaches His arms down and takes it away. If I and others are to live with these burdens, it has to be for a reason, no?
The War, In My Mind is a series of three posts detailing my recollections of life before, during and after my involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I deployed in October 2005 as part of an Armed Forces Radio and Television team whose mission was to tell the stories of those who served downrange. Most of the storytelling of this series is straight from my memory, with other parts of it corroborated from notes I had typed out in what amounted to nothing more than a crude digital journal.
We hovered over any computer we could find that was connected to the Internet.
Class was supposed to start at 7:59 a.m., but we didn’t care. Our eyes were transfixed upon an image we couldn’t even fathom.
I scrolled down the front page of CNN.com in the back of our computer lab as at least a dozen people hovered over me. I read through a bullet list of headlines that described the news that was breaking on the other side of our nation.
“Two planes,” I yelled as I held up two fingers. “It was two planes. Two buildings.”
Never mind what had happened in D.C.; we were all still transfixed upon that image on the screen in our computer lab.
“We’re going to have to order new history books next year,” a voice behind me said.
“I think the world just went to hell,” another voice said.
I was writing a fake public service announcement script for a class assignment when I heard one of my fellow Airmen yell down the hall.
“Bush is about to announce something big on TV,” the man yelled.
My fourth week of training to become a radio and television broadcaster — and only my fifth month in the United States Air Force — was dominated by questions over the war in Afghanistan. Why hadn’t we found Osama bin Laden yet?
Now, President Bush had given Saddam Hussein an ultimatum in Iraq. The 48-hour deadline for the man to leave his nation had passed.
The man who shouted out just moments ago wheeled a television into the cramped hallway of our dorm. We all moseyed out of our rooms in whatever we were wearing as CNN carried a presidential speech live.
Images of a still-intact Baghdad filled the screen, then the president spoke.
We all stood still.
“Let’s all pray,” our chapel leader said.
And we all did.
The Chace Fitness Center gymnasium was empty. Perfect time to go shoot some hoops.
A layup here, step-back jumper there, two imaginary defenders on me and I still got each shot off.
My usual practice after I got off work late in the evening was to let off some steam by heading to the gym to shoot buckets and to run, and on this rainy evening it was refreshing to walk back to my dorm a quarter-mile away.
Once in my dorm, I took a shower, dried off and sat down to the computer. MSN Messenger was the preferred method of communication, and I noticed more friends online than usual.
But many of them had changed their usernames, if only for a fleeting moment.
“SADDAM CAPTURED,” one read.
“DIE, BASTARD, DIE,” another read.
“FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDOM!!!!!!!” read still another.
My friend Greg sent me a simple message, and I still remember it in its non-capitalized form:
turn on the tv now son
I did, and whoever was still at the station manning the equipment was running a crawl that advised the viewer to turn to AFN News for live coverage of the capture of Saddam Hussein.
I turned to the news channel and saw the iconic images myself moments later.
“We got him,” L. Paul Bremer announced.
I typed back to Greg:
it’s all over now, isn’t it?
The incessant sound of the vacuum rattled my brain as I pushed it, pulled it, pushed it, pulled it. It was base detail day at my new base, and anyone living in the dorms was subject to a full week of cleaning all the common areas of the dorms on base.
Hey, at least I was back in the States and couldn’t complain much. I kept vacuuming.
I was taking a break for a few minutes and grabbing a bite to eat when I heard a knock at the door. It was the sergeant in charge.
“I’m sorry, I was just taking a quick break. Needed something to eat,” I said as I hurriedly stood up.
“Your supervisors called you in,” the sergeant said, handing me a note. “It’s urgent.”
I ran downstairs, hopped into my car and drove the two miles to the video services office I worked at. I ran up the stairs, hurriedly opened the door and saw our boss, Michelle.
“I need you to come into my office,” Michelle said. “Close the door.”
I saw my immediate supervisor standing off to the side with his arms crossed, looking downward. He said not a word.
“Have a seat, Airman Brewer,” Michelle said. When she called me by my formal title and not my given first name, I knew it was serious.
The words came down with no warning.
“You’re going to Baghdad.”
I stared at the floor for a second — I wasn’t even 21 yet, how could they do this to me? — then looked up and asked a flurry of questions.
“Are you sure this isn’t some sort of mistake?” I asked.
“You’re heading out in October so you have some time to prepare,” Michelle said. “Better get ready.”
The folks at church had known about my impending deployment for months, but with time drawing short, my last youth service for at least the next half of a year still wasn’t easy to get through.
We sang worship songs, our worship and co-youth leader John got up and gave a message to the youth, we sang more worship songs and had an altar call, then they called me up to the front.
John told the youth that I’d be leaving in just a couple days for Iraq, that danger was still very real over there and that he wanted to pray for God to grant me peace and safety.
Just about everyone — probably 40 or so, from what I remember — came up to me at the front of the church and laid hands on me for prayer, a show of solidarity in which they promised to keep in touch, pray for me daily and celebrate when I returned home.
I said a few words and thanked everyone for their prayers, and with that, the service for the evening was dismissed.
It was at that moment that a friend of mine came up to the front to tell me goodbye.
“I’m really going to miss you,” she said. “I really mean it, too.”
I reached out my arms to hug her, and it didn’t matter that her boyfriend was standing right behind her. She returned it, and as we embraced she began to weep uncontrollably, causing me to do so as well.
“I’ll be alright,” I told her. “I’m coming back, I promise.”
As a person who grew up in the Church of God of Prophecy in Washington State, attending churches in Kelso and Vancouver at different points, I am no stranger to the struggles of the group of churches since the mid-1990s.
Declining attendance, several churches being either combined or disbanded and lack of steady financial income had been persistent problems for years for the organization. Today, the COGOP in Washington (which I will refer to as WACOGOP from heretoforth) has roughly 500 members across just shy of 20 member churches statewide, with most of those along the Interstate 5 corridor.
And now it has its first-ever campground facility — something the leadership of the COGOP in the Evergreen State have sought after for years.
The Yakima Herald reported today that Camp Roganunda, the former Camp Fire retreat in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest off state Route 410, was sold to WACOGOP for $137,500. That’s just over half the property’s assessed value of $249,500. Note that the article implies a single church in Spanaway bought it — that’s because the COGOP’s business office for the state is there, if I’m not mistaken.
The campground, formerly owned by Camp Fire USA, has a lodge, several cabins, restroom and shower facilities, a pool and access to one of the most gorgeous forested areas created by the hand of God himself. It’s situated just southwest of Cle Elum and Ellensburg — and close to White Pass — at an elevation of roughly 3,500 feet as this Mapquest map shows.
This is a huge acquisition for the Church of God of Prophecy that has a ripple effect throughout the entire state’s network of churches. WACOGOP leadership have collectively put their heads together and decided it’s time to do something with their money…and have gained a significant financial and spiritual asset.
On the surface, WACOGOP now has a piece of property that by itself is a major Monopoly card of sorts, valuated at a quarter-million dollars and sitting in pristine forest land that will remain untouched save for the directives of the U.S. Forest Service.
But delving further into what the acquisition of Camp Roganunda means shows this to be a major turning point in the history of the WACOGOP.
Summer camps for the entire WACOGOP network of churches have been held at Millersylvania State Park just south of Tumwater for over 50 years. This will presumably end, and from a business perspective it’s the perfect time, as there is no longer a need for camp coordinators and directors to fight for prime scheduling for summer camps with other groups wishing to use the same facility. The cost of renting the facility went up year by year as the state budget dried up, causing the prices of summer camps to increase and negatively impacting the number of campers that could attend.
Instead of going toward paying off rent to Washington State Parks, I’m sure a portion of each camper’s tuition will go right back into paying off the property. This means each camper that registers for a camp at Roganunda for the foreseeable future has a direct investment into the facility, and thus a sense of ownership. That’s something to be proud of.
The possibility may also exist to rent the facility out to other churches or groups, but again that’s just speculation on my part. Imagine being the group doing the renting out of a facility rather than being the renters. Enough said.
I would venture to guess that events such as Winter Retreat could presumably be held at Roganunda as well. Each member church of WACOGOP could in theory host a getaway or retreat at the campground at their request. The possibilities of what could be done with Roganunda are limitless.
I haven’t talked to any of the powers-that-be directly about the purchase of Roganunda, but judging from the reactions I see on Facebook from my friends back home, the input is mostly positive. Any negative reaction I’ve read is from people simply lamenting the fact so many memories were made at Millersylvania State Park and the fact such a special place for so many will no longer be utilized…and that’s okay.
But in a time of increasing financial instability in our world, such a purchase is necessary. I’m sure those who prayed about the decision did so in earnest and felt a complete peace about it. I stand with those who have been praying for a campground WACOGOP can call its own for the past decade or longer.
This is easily the biggest property acquisition in WACOGOP’s recent history, if not ever. Never before has there been a purchase that has had the capability to directly benefit not only WACOGOP’s financial standing, but each of its member churches as well.
Here’s a cheer for Camp Roganunda, the people who pulled off an absolute financial steal, and to its future as a ministry facility. It’s time to write a whole new book of memories while treasuring the old ones.
As Rainier Camina, youth pastor for New Horizons Church in Washougal so succinctly put it, “Camp Roganunda, here we come.”
Here we come, indeed. See you there this summer for Young Adult camp.