So there was this once in a lifetime astronomical event last week. You may have heard something about it. People flocking to places in the middle of nowhere that they would have otherwise not known existed, gathering in open fields, congregated on rooftops, cursing the very clouds in the sky.
The media build up to August 21 was interesting to watch, from an observation standpoint.
Schools closed for the day. Some businesses closed for the day. For a couple of brief hours – in my area – at least, the fast moving world seemed to put on the brakes. I live in the Charleston, SC area. We were the ground zero for eclipse observers on the east coast that hoped to be a part of the event. In the days leading up to Aug 21, the local news outlets bombarded us with eclipse updates, often repeating the same stuff from the previous hour: Stay off the roads during the eclipse, Don’t look at the eclipse without your glasses, and so on and so forth.
For me, it got tiring.
But at the same time, there was a boost to the local tourist economy beyond the normal tourist traffic. Hotels and AIRBNB weren’t the only ones to cash in. Thousands of pairs of fake eclipse glasses were sold. Scammers made a killing at $8 -$10 a shot (or more) at the expense of people’s eyesight.
Then the day finally came. I had to work. A lot of people at my job took a half day off to go to a more ideal spot to watch. Before the actual eclipse, all eyes were on the weather in the Charleston area. Clouds were a big concern. If we were to look at company web traffic out of my office, that day, I’m sure Weather.com and NASA.gov were eating a heck of a lot of bandwidth.
Then…finally…the moon’s shadow had moved across the entire continental U.S.. It was Charleston’s turn…somehow the clouds knew it, it seemed.
When eclipse started, there were optimism was high. Clouds were patchy with a good amount of blue sky to be had. Shortly before totality, I snapped a couple pics such as the one below, with my eclipse glasses covering my phone camera lens. They came out OK. It was cool to watch the moon’s approach to totality.
Then, life proved (once again) that it hates me. About five minutes before totality, the sky got completely clouded. At my job, we heard most of the surrounding area was getting rain. I have to admit, I felt there was a little poetic justice at work when it came to those people that took the day off for the event, when I was stuck there.
But I digress.
Then it got dark. The street lights came on. Every camera present in the small group that stood outside with me in the parking lot was pointed skyward. We could hear people cheering and shooting off fireworks. Cameras were snapping pics, wildly, in the slim hope we’d get a break in the clouds within the next minute and forty-four secs. It had the feeling of the stroke of midnight on New Years Day.
Then it happened
Clouds thinned enough for us to be able to see totality. Not in its full glory, but enough to see the ring around the moon. So I started taking pictures…or so I thought. My phone didn’t register pics being taken. I cursed out loud, drawing attention from those nearest to me. Frustrated, I restarted the camera app and found I did get a couple of pics. The best of them is below.
All things considered, even as tired of hearing about as I got, it was a very cool experience. Remember what I said about the world seeming like it slowed down a bit? Beyond that, it also felt like – for a minute and forty-four seconds – our conflicts and frustrations took a back seat to something bigger. I would bet, during that time of totality, no one was complaining about government, the economy, or any of the limitless things people put too much effort into worrying about.
I kinda wish it would happen more often. Should we really have to wait until 2024 for everyone to get along again?