The cockpit of the HH-1H Huey helicopter was silent as the crew surveyed the steaming hell of ash, gases and volcanic debris below. Mike Cooney, a pararescueman with the Air Force Reserve’s elite 304th Rescue Squadron, then based in Portland, knew at once that anyone who had been down there was beyond his help.
For Grover Laseke, the eruption of Mount St. Helens wasn’t a spectacle. It was a grueling, dangerous, serious job. Grueling as a trek through ash-blasted wasteland, dangerous as a car crash, serious as a body bag: all part of his job in the days following May 18, 1980.
What Sandy Vaughan found awaiting her at work at 10 p.m. defied logic. “It was a strange, strange feeling,” the Vancouver nurse said. “Whoever thought you would be taking care of a volcano victim?