Introduction: Rescued from Mount St. Helens (04:46)
Mindy Brugman will search for the family of the man who saved her life. Sue Nystrom hopes to find the military pilot who rescued her. The eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 was the most deadly eruption in U.S. History; David Johnston appeared on local television to warn residents of a potential disaster. (Credits)
Red Zone Implemented (02:29)
Dixy Lee Ray authorized an evacuation; many local people refused to leave. Scientists monitored the volcano from Coldwater Ridge; Johnson refused to allow Brugman to stay overnight at the observation point.
Nystrom and her boyfriend camped just two miles outside the red zone with friends. A massive earthquake triggered a landslide, bursting the bulge on Mount St Helens.
Johnston Radios U.S.G.S. (03:36)
Volcanic gas and debris hit the observation point, devastating it. Ash enveloped the camp. With two friends missing and two injured, Nystrom searched for help.
Witnessing the Disaster (02:33)
Brugman describes the chaos at the U.S.G.S. and despair at learning the observation point had been destroyed. Experts estimate that there would have been thousands killed if Johnston had not insisted on the red zone. Brugman hopes to find his family members to thank them.
Nystrom describes being rescued by Mike Cairns who had been following her footprints. Two of the friends were found; the other two were killed by a fallen tree. Nystrom wants to thank Cairns for his risk.
Returning to Vancouver (02:20)
The David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory monitors eruptions. Heather Wright shows Brugman logbooks from the observation point.
Helicopter Teams (03:54)
Nystrom travels to the Kelso Airport for clues about Cairns' whereabouts. Randall Schultz-Rathbun describes how pilots flew under the ash cloud while St. Helens was erupting. Paul Bax recommends visiting the National Guard archives.
Finding Family Members (03:48)
Tom Ryll remembers Johnston warning the public about a potential eruption and reporting him missing. Burgman reads an article from 2016 about Johnston's family.
Washington State Archives (04:17)
Nystrom spendt 34 years in the National Guard as an engineer, educating other soldiers. Cairns' service record lists his many commendations and medals including the Purple Heart, Exceptional Service, and the Vietnam Service Medals. Nystrom writes a letter to the address she discovered.
New Lead (03:26)
Tom Casadevall discusses flying to Chicago to meet Johnston's family to help with closure. Burgman learns that he has a sister named Pat.
Finding Her Hero (05:36)
Nystrom travels to Camp Murray to visit the headquarters of the Washington State National Guard. Rick Patterson finds rare footage of Cairns and Nystrom after landing at the Kelso Airport recorded by a television crew. Jess Hagerman provides a phone number for Cairns.
Arriving In Chicago (04:14)
Burgman meets Pat, Johnston's sister, tells her about his last night on Earth, and how he saved her life. Pat is married with three children.
Reuniting With Cairns (05:50)
Cairns and Nystrom meet at the David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory. Nystrom thanks him for saving her life, shares how she joined the National Guard because she was inspired by him, and presents him with a flag that was flown in his honor in Afghanistan. Cairns is a retired father of two and grandfather of six.
Credits: Rescued from Mount St. Helens (00:29)
Credits: Rescued from Mount St. Helens
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