That’s what the news was calling it — The Great American Eclipse. As if this didn’t happen before in 1979, or like it won’t happen again in 2024.
And, in fact, total solar eclipses happen all the time . . . they’re just usually over the ocean, where no one can see.
So the big deal about this one was simply location. It was the fact that anyone in the contiguous United States could look up and see this amazing phenomenon (with proper protective eyewear, of course).
You might know, I live in Nebraska, where tens of thousands of people have travelled to witness the eclipse. They travelled to tiny towns that no one has heard of and no one ever visits, where they attended carnivals and barbecues with total strangers. And when the time came, they all looked up.
I had to work today. As you can imagine, the store was almost completely dead. We had four pairs of eclipse glasses among my coworkers, and we took turns stepping outside to check the sun’s status. But when we started to see the sky going dark, we all went outside. I could see a crowd gathered at the entrance of the mall across the street and at the movie theater on our other side. The three or four customers that were in our store stepped outside with us. We passed around the glasses and took turns saying stupid things like, “Wow!” and “Would you look at that!”
Some people might think it was a lot of hoopla for just a few minutes out the day. Where I live, we didn’t even experience complete totality.
But it was amazing — and not only because of the rarity of the phenomenon. While we were gathered outside, I did take a second to look around at all the people looking up. It hit me that in that moment, we were all thinking about the same thing. People all across this country were taking a second to pause, look up, and observe.
In a country as divided as America is right now, I don’t know, it was just nice to know that for a second, we all had something in common.