Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dedicated to David!

Every time I think of the movie 2012, I laugh. Additionally, I laugh at the thought of movies like The Core, Dante's Peak, and Volcano. Despite likeable actors such as Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Pierce Brosnan, and John Cusack - Hollywood just cannot get earth sciences right.

Is this a "fair evaluation" of the movies, probably not, but one can only use their life experiences, education and knowledge as a means to gauge what they see. I absolutely despise "cop shows" on TV. It is not realistic in any way. I served as a cop for almost ten years, and let me tell you that TV does not portray reality. It never has.  Not ALL cops are "dirty" or "on the payroll".

Same goes for many occupations portrayed in movies and television shows (soldiers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, etc). We watch these shows for entertainment purposes only - right? Or are we living a life we wish we could through Hollywood portrayals? Stereotypes, certainly are not lacking in Hollywood's vision of America. Unfortunately, it perpetuates a sense of ignorance (careful here...I am not saying stupidity which is quite different than ignorance).

In geological based movies were the world's climate changes virtually overnight or volcanism under Los Angeles allows a chauffeur driving a limousine to "outrun" disaster is just preposterous. Take it at its face is JUST ENTERTAINMENT.

Now getting back to Woody Harrelson's character, Charlie Frost, who is a conspiracy theorist in 2012, decides that the best seat in the house for the "end of the world" is on the rim of the Yellowstone caldera. Is this reality...hell yeah!

 As a geology major, if I had the choice of how I was going to "exit" this plane of existence, it would be sitting along side Charlie Frost. I would literally LOVE leaving this world seeing it in its primal state...doing what it does best....destroying and recreating land mass. How freaking awesome is that??? Okay, so you might think I am a little "off". Truth is, I believe any geologist would say the same thing.

I constantly think about David Alexander Johnston. He was born a week before Christmas in 1949 in Chicago, Illinois. He was employed by United States Geological Survey (USGS) as a volcanologist. On May 18, 1980 he died when Mt. St. Helens erupted. He was stationed 10 km near the blast zone, and was killed at the age of 30 by the lateral blast.  David's last words were "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!"

Most people would say this is horrible and sad, and it is. Lost of any human life is horrific and sad. David however was a Geologist. As a Geologist, especially studying volcanoes, he knew deep down the possibility that one might take him.You are thinking how the hell do I know this? Simple, whenever I started my shift I had a ritual. I would slip my bullet-proof vest on, kiss the picture of my kids, and went to work. I knew that I might not go home, but that I knew if my life ended probably met that others would live. Is this comforting? No, but it did meant acceptance to what I choose to be.

I think about this man, despite never meeting him, often in fact. I believe that David knew what he witnessed was incredible, awesome and spectacular. I think David knew he would not survive, but in his last minutes his only concern was to let Vancouver know...that Mount Saint Helens was erupting. David, when I get to where you are now...I have lots of questions, because I believe you left this world just as you expected...Charlie Frost is fictional..David really existed.

A couple of years ago I was with Professor Garry Hayes from Modesto Junior College, and the summer geology class on a trip through the American Northwest. We visited Mt. St. Helens. It was fogged in. Garry was as disappointed as I believed he knew what it meant for me to be there. I was one of the few students who was old enough to have seen her before the 1980  eruption. I so wanted to see her now...but it was not to be. Instead, I focused on David and his spirit as a geologist. Despite the disappointment in not seeing "her", I walked the grounds at the Visitors' Center which was dedicated to David Johnston, and admired his sacrifice. He is one geologist who I will never forget...why...because I envy what he saw.

Only geologists would understand this...but trust me...Woody Harrelson's conspiracy nut,  Charlie Frost was cast wrong...he should have been a geologist.

Dedicated to David Alexander Johnston December 18, 1949 – May 18, 1980


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