I can remember the first time, 30 years ago, when I had a feeling of pure terror hit me like a freight train. It was my birthday May 18, 1980. I was outside running around with my friends, playing freeze tag, and waiting for my mom to bring out my Raggedy Ann cake.
I had just rounded the corner of our backyard and my brother was hot on my tail after I doused him with the water hose that was being used to fill up my pool (which I thought was hilarious by the way). Anyway, I felt a burning just above my belly button, and I initially thought I had been snagged by the large grapevine my mom insisted on keeping when we moved in. I looked down to see if I was bleeding and, upon further inspection, learned that I was fine and didn't need to scream bloody murder after all. I tried to walk it off, but I had this feeling of pure terror, even worse then when you break something and know full well you're going to be in BIG trouble. My head started to hurt and I began to cry. I couldn't figure out why I felt so scared, but deep down I knew something was happening. I sat there crying for a few minutes, and the feeling just subsided and I slowly felt okay again.
I didn't have time to say anything to my mom or anyone else because a few minutes later she rounded everyone up and brought out my cake, with my dad tailing behind listening to his boom box radio. Just as the chorus of happy birthday began, I again felt the same feelings I described above. I took in a breath and thought for sure I was dying, right there during my birthday party. I started to panic, and I knew I needed to tell my mom that something was wrong, but I didn't have the chance. My dad pulled my mom aside and whispered something to her, and she then told everyone to get inside and we would finish the party. I was trying to ask my mom why we had to go inside, when I heard the guy on the radio say that everyone near Mt. St Helen's was in immediate danger as the mountain had been making "noise" for a few weeks now, but it had in fact just blown. We lived north of the mountain and the news was saying that ash had been blown straight up and had fanned as it headed our way.
My dad flipped on the TV and all we could see were people trying to run through thick ash, cars covered with what looked like thick, gray snowflakes. Each time I looked at the people on TV, I could feel their terror, sorrow, anger or happiness at making it to cover. I couldn't explain it to anyone at the time, but it was almost like I was right there with them experiencing those feelings. Almost like a switched being flipped from happy, sad, relief and back again. We stood at the window and watched thin wisps of ash fall all around the yard, and as it was falling I could see people walking around out there. I asked my mom why they could be outside and we couldn't, but she told me not to be silly, there was no one out there. And as soon as they appeared in the ash, they were gone. I'm still not sure if they were ever there to begin with, but all I can say it that I saw them just as plain as day.
The day passed pretty much as uneventful as a mountain blast could make it, and everyone left for home. As I was getting ready for bed that night I began seeing flashes of things that I know I had never experienced. I was standing on the porch of a cabin, looking up at the mountain, and all of the sudden I saw the top of it blow off and I was thrown back up against the front door of the cabin by a forceful wind. As I tried to get up, I saw the ash raining down on my cabin and then the mud racing towards me. And that's as far as I ever got. In the next one, I was helping someone take their groceries out to the car, and heard what sounded like a bomb blast, followed by an earthquake. I grabbed the cart to steady myself, and looked up to see all kinds of ash raining down on me and as I tried to make my way back inside the store, I was hit by a car. I started to cry a bit, and laid down in the hopes that I could go to sleep and it would all stop. I got up in the middle of the night to get some water, and when I started back to my room, I saw a guy standing in my doorway asking for water. He was older, and dressed in overalls of some type, and a long sleeve flannel shirt.
He said his throat was dry for all the ash, and he just needed a drink until he could make his way back to his cabin. Needless to say I screamed my lungs out, for sure this old man was going to swipe me off into the night. My dad came running, and when I told him, he scolded me for waking the dead with my nonsense. I went back to bed with a sore butt, but back to bed anyway.
In the morning I awoke to see that we had a light coating of ash during night, and ran downstairs to see if we could play in it. When I came into the living room, the news was talking about a man named Harry Truman who lived in the blast zone and wouldn't leave. He was the owner and caretaker of Mount St Helen's Spirit Lake Lodge. He died that day. Then his picture flashed on the screen and I screamed and told my dad that was who I saw in our hallway last night. He yelled at me for lying, then sent me back to the bed I had just come from, to think about what lying makes me look like to others. It was a good long while before I every voiced anything I saw, to ANYONE. Not only was I scared that I would be made fun of, but how do you tell people you saw a ghost of an old man, in your hallway, on your birthday?
I will always remember that birthday, and every time someone asks my birth date, I am reminded of the events of that day, when they ask how old I was when Mt. St Helen's blew. I'm not sure why Mr. Truman came to me that day, or if it really was him that I saw.
I have a hard time being around people who are very emotional. It's almost like I experience it along with them. I see people here and there, like if I'm passing a cemetery or an older house. I can see them as they died or as they lived, and I can almost feel their emotions as I pass by. I'm unsure if they want recognition that someone sees them, or if they don't notice me at all.
We have a resident ghost at our house, my husband's father. He passed away there in his favorite easy chair, after sending everyone out to get coffee. He says it's because he didn't like being stared at in life, and he didn't want people staring at him as he died.
I do have a few select people that I share things with, and my husband knows a little also. I guess I just feel like no one can really understand what it's like, unless it happens to them.
Make no mistake, it's not at all like Ghost Whisperer. I never communicate like that with them, and have never had them try to disrupt anything, they're just there everyday.
I do hope that someday they can find the peace they need to move on, everyone deserves that much.