To the point week of 5-20-10

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HAVE YOU EVER LOOKED up and seen some piece of information and thought, ” That was how long ago?” I think we all have, as one day leads to another, then to weeks, months, and years.

There are all sorts of “sign posts” in my life that in my mind are very recent events, but the calendar tells me that they happened much longer ago than I care to admit.

You know the feeling. You’re looking for some piece of information that you’re sure happened last year – only to find out that it happened last decade.

Or maybe last century.

Does anyone else have trouble remembering that a 2000 automobile is now 10 years old?

Strange, isn’t it?

Well this week I have one of those moments, because on May 18th, 1980 - 30 years ago this week - Mount St. Helens erupted in the State of Washington.

We remember the devastation of the area. We may remember that 57 people lost their lives.

Can you believe that was 30 years ago?

I remember being a college student (yikes, it was that long ago), and hearing during a class that a volcano had erupted in Washington.

I’d had some science classes, even a geology class, so I got this mental image in my mind of a volcano overflowing with lava. I figured it looked something like my fifth grade science fair project, where a mixture of vinegar and baking soda and some red food coloring provided the visual image for the judges.

Then I got back to my dorm and turned on the news.

It didn’t look like that.

It looked like another planet.

A side note: If you have any interest at all, a trip to the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky has some very interesting exhibits on Mount St. Helens and the damage it did and the rocks and erosion it left behind.

Even the most hardened evolutionist would find it interesting to see that rocks that were created a couple of months before during the eruption were carbon dated by scientists to be millions of years old.

But that’s another column, but if you’re interested and open minded, check it out.

Anyway, I digress.

I think nearly everyone who watched those images shortly after the eruption remembers the utter devastation that occurred. The one image that I have is the vast emptiness of land, with the exception of tree trunks lying in almost perfect lines like match sticks.

It was of particular interest to the national public because we had never seen anything like that before, and to see the photos and to read the stories – it almost seemed surreal, like we were watching some science fiction movie and shortly someone was going to yell “Cut!” and everything was going to be back to normal.

No one ever yelled “Cut!”.

But, in the aftermath of all of the devastation, something happened that normally doesn’t happen in our country.

A bunch of people got together to develop a plan on what to do with the nearly 370 square miles that the eruption had destroyed.

Their conclusion?

Something that we would never think of,

They decided to do nothing.

That’s right, they didn’t do anything.

In 1982 the area was officially preserved and protected, allowing nature itself to regenerate and revive the land. Very few would have thought that there was life under all that ash, but soon plants started to emerge, painting the desolation with color.

That led to more plants finding space to grow, and today the landscape is covered with wild grasses and wildflowers, and animals have returned and the area – from a nature standpoint – is flourishing.

As remarkable as the realization is that it’s been 30 years, it’s nearly as remarkable to me to see what nature can do when man simply gets out of the way.

Far too often we try and “fix” things; and far too often we end up doing more harm than good.

All of that farmland across our country that used to soak up the heavy rain is now paved over or covered by housing subdivisions or commercial development.

When the rain can’t soak into the ground because it’s covered in asphalt, the water has no recourse but to rise and flood.

Just ask Nashville.

But I still really can’t believe that it’s been 30 years since Mount St. Helens erupted – but I guess I need to put it all into perspective, since on Monday night the Switzerland County School Board hired three teachers who I remember as students here.

Time does fly.

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One other note today:

Longtime Switzerland Countians are mourning the passing of Gladys Alford this week.

If you knew Gladys, you knew that she was a wonderful and hard working woman, who was dedicated to her family and to her community.

You have probably seen Gladys in previous years at the Switzerland County 4-H Fair, where she worked tirelessly for the young people of this county – even after her own children weren’t “young people” anymore.

She did it because she believed in the youth of our community and in the potential that they possessed. She loved this county and the people in it, and she quietly went about her business of doing all that she could to make it even better.

Cancer took Gladys from us on Sunday morning. A terrible disease that she has fought valiantly for the past few years; but one that Gladys never let get the best of her. She fought and fought with every ounce of strength; and was preparing to fight again even though her strength was fading.

I will miss Gladys and all that she had meant to me on a variety of levels; but she will live on in the lives of her family and in the success of those institutions that she blessed with her efforts.

If you knew Gladys Alford, then you know what I’m talking about.

If you didn’t, you truly missed knowing a really special lady.