I verified one more time that the eclipse glasses in my hand were legitimate, put them to my eyes, and looked into the sky. Expecting little, instead I saw a sight that will live with me forever; a brilliant, clearly defined picture of the eclipse of the sun.
Never again in my life will I have the opportunity to walk onto the deck of my office, or anywhere else in this country, and see the moon block out the sun’s rays in such dramatic fashion. That makes this week’s event even more special.
I happened to be in the North Georgia Mountains this past weekend. It was there that I began to realize the frenzy that was enveloping parts of the country as the date of the eclipse approached.
Hotels and campgrounds were beginning to fill up. People were renting space in their front yards for people to camp. There were traffic signs warning of heavy traffic for the upcoming Monday.
People cleverly advertised meals with Sunny Delight, Sun Chips and Moon Pies. What better time to break out the space themed candy like Milky Way, Mars Bars and Starbursts and eat as much as you want.
I remember making the box with a pinhole to safely watch an eclipse as a small child, though I have no memory of actually seeing it happen. I remember the day turning darker in the 70s, which was the last time an eclipse of this magnitude happened in the South.
But it was the 3-D looking glasses blocking out all the harmful rays that offered me the vision of a true solar eclipse that rivaled any of the thousands of pictures that are now posted on the internet. “Wow” were the only words I could muster to describe what I saw.
As we passed the glasses around to the people in our office the comment was always the same, simply “Wow”.
The day did not become dark here in South Georgia though it dimmed to an eerie glow. The temperature dropped, but it was still hot given this is South Georgia in August. I could not tell if the animals had become quiet as forecasted, given the uninterrupted sounds of the traffic that never slowed down.
As I glanced towards the highway, I was struck by how many people were oblivious to the event of a lifetime that was occurring as they drove by. I thought it was a small microcosm of life. What is important to some people is not important to others. Important things of which we are unaware happen around us all the time.
Perhaps the most amazing thing of all is that for a few short minutes, millions of Americans stopped what they were doing and focused on the same thing at the same time. It is estimated that over 20 million Americans watched the eclipse from the 70 mile wide path of totality. Over four million people watched NASA’s live stream of the event.
Fully one half of all Americans were estimated to have briefly watched the sun being blocked by the moon as it moved from coast to coast for the first time in 99 years.
Amazing when you think about it. It was not a natural disaster, an act of terrorism or an ill-timed tweet. An ageless event of nature caused Americans to stop what they were doing and focus on the same thing at the same time. Now that is truly an event of a lifetime.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org