Solar Eclipse Brings Wonder Across North America

Millions of Americans observed a rare total solar eclipse, when the moon blocked the light of the sun and created temporary darkness on earth. Visitors flocked to prime viewing locations on the path of totality, stretching from Texas to Maine.

INDIANAPOLIS—Crowds across North America stood transfixed on April 8 as the moon temporarily blocked the light of the sun, casting a shadow over a 115-mile-wide swath of planet Earth.

As the moment of totality approached, a hush fell over the thousand or so people gathered at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Moments later, silence gave way to cheers, children shrieking, sighs of amazement, and shouts of “Awesome!”

This was the solar eclipse of 2024, the last to be seen in North America for 20 years. The totality, during which the moon completely covered the sun, lasted a mere 3 1/2 minutes but created a deep impression and a lasting memory for those who witnessed it.

Curiosity and Excitement

A total, or annular, eclipse is a rare event. The last time one was visible from Central Indiana was some 800 years ago. This astrological anomaly threw cities from San Antonio to Montreal into crisis mode as officials braced for record numbers of visitors and traffic-snarled highways.

Despite the logistical headaches, huge crowds gathered for what many considered a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Some came to view the event purely for the adventure.

“I have no idea what to expect,” Raina Skeels, 38, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, told The Epoch Times.

She came to Indianapolis with her husband, Curtis, for her first eclipse viewing.

“We were looking for a place to camp, and we saw they had entertainment and food here [at the Indiana State Fairgrounds],” Ms. Skeels said.

Brittany Arnett, 41, of Indianapolis, came hoping to make a memory with her 12-year-old daughter.

“I saw a partial eclipse years ago when I was in school,” she said.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Ms. Arnett told The Epoch Times, noting that the last time that she saw an eclipse, it was a partial eclipse and that she was in grade school at the time.

“I wanted to have that experience with my daughter.”

Others came hoping to fulfill a lifelong ambition or repeat their near-magical encounter with the 2017 eclipse that traversed the United States from Oregon to South Carolina.

“I want to be in the shadow,” Adrian Montalvo, 35, of Chicago, told The Epoch Times.

He said he had seen two partial eclipses, but standing in the shadow of a total eclipse would fulfill a childhood dream.

“It was a very emotional experience,” Jerry Lech, 80, of Carey, North Carolina, told The Epoch Times, speaking of the 2017 event.

He and his wife, Pat, traveled to Indiana to repeat the experience.

Mr. Ming, 70, a native of China who now lives in rural Kentucky, called the experience of viewing the eclipse in 2017 “a wondrous event.”

“You move heaven and earth to see that event,” he said. “When you experience it, you feel a little bit different. You feel the sun’s power. Once the moon blocks the sun, you feel cooler, you feel more precarious. You understand that your situation is not so safe because your existence could be affected by an event in the universe.”

NTD Photo
The solar eclipse in Washington on April 8, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)


During the eclipse, the moon passed between the sun and the Earth, casting a shadow over a small section of the planet. The darkest portion of the shadow, the umbra, moved across the Earth, creating a 115-mile-wide pathway called the zone of totality.

During the totality, the corona, a ring of silver light surrounding the blackened disc of the moon, appeared; it was viewable with the naked eye. The temperature dropped noticeably, and not-quite-total darkness descended.

A solar prominence, a red plasma and magnetic field extending from the sun’s surface, was faintly visible at the southern pole of the sun. Dave Robbins, 72, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, was able to photograph the phenomenon through a telescope.

On both sides of that pathway, the eclipse is incomplete, meaning that a portion of the sun is still visible. This creates a partial shadow called the penumbra.

This total eclipse was visible on the west coast of Mexico beginning at 9:07 a.m. EDT and reached the northeast coast of Canada at 3:45 p.m. In between, it passed over 11 U.S. states and the cities of San Antonio and Dallas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Indianapolis; Cleveland; and Buffalo, Syracuse, and Plattsburgh, New York.

Jennifer Martinez, 52, a middle school science teacher from Woodstock, Illinois, was left breathless by the event.

“I’ve been nerding out about this for seven years now,” she told The Epoch Times. “I told my family that I had to be here.

“It’s just the most amazing moment. I don’t know how to describe the feeling. It was just an incredible feat the universe put on for us today. … I’m breathless.”

Some students from Purdue University were intrigued by the phenomenon itself.

“I think one of my favorite parts was seeing what looked like a simultaneous sunrise and sunset on the sides,” student Bella Reid, 20, told The Epoch Times. “It’s just like bits of sunlight still out there.”

Avery Mantyla, 22, said, “I liked the chill of it coming. You could feel the air getting cold before totality, which is wildthe impact it has.”

Peter Timpane, 19, said, “It was just an absolutely fantastic experience.”

NTD Photo
Watching the solar eclipse with approved safety glasses in New York on April 8, 2024. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Partial Eclipse, Total Excitement

The total eclipse was visible only from a narrow pathway, but most people in most of North America were able to view a partial eclipse.

Heather Quarles of Newberry, Florida, pulled her 10-year-old son, Chael, out of school in the early afternoon so he would have a chance to see the eclipse. The school had announced that all outdoor activities for the afternoon would be canceled.

“I just wanted to make sure that he had the opportunity [to see it],” Ms. Quarles said.

She said she realized that the next time that there’s an eclipse, “he’ll be in his 30s!”

Students of most parents at the school had the same intent, Ms. Quarles said. She had overheard school personnel remarking that 403 children were absent.

Students started streaming out with their parents just after lunch until fewer than half of the class remained, Chael said. Now at his mother’s workplace, he ambled outside at about 1:40 p.m. and slipped on protective eclipse-viewing glasses.

Peering skyward, Chael reported that there wasn’t much to see yet. He would be back at about 3 p.m.

Hundreds of people gathered at nearby Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. The free supply of glasses offered by the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium at the college had run out hours before the eclipse. But many people who were gathered there at 3 p.m. offered strangers the chance to share.

Debby Ashram had arrived early enough in the morning to score two pairs of eclipse-viewing glasses. Then she checked her 11-year-old grandson Brantley Wagers out of school early.

Brantley, an aspiring historian, shyly admitted that he was excited to see his first eclipse. It’s important in that line of work to see such things, he said.

NTD Photo
A couple views an early stage of the total solar eclipse in Indianapolis, Ind., on Apr. 8, 2024. (Lawrence Wilson/The Epoch Times)

Not a Normal Day

The eclipse itself was an out-of-the-ordinary event, and its arrival caused significant disruption of routines.

Some schools were closed because of safety concerns, although many others remained open. About 50 school districts in Texas were closed. San Antonio public schools remained open, with learning opportunities related to the eclipse. All schools in Indianapolis either canceled classes or held remote instruction.

Many government offices, libraries, and other public agencies were shuttered as well. City Hall in Rochester, New York, closed for the day. In Bell County, Texas, government offices were closed for the day. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb declared a state of emergency six days in advance of the massive influx of visitors to the state.

Along with logistical headaches, the eclipse brought a financial windfall to cities along its path.

Jamie Lane, senior vice president of analytics at AirDNA, posted a graphic on social media showing that cities with sold-out bed-and-breakfast listings matched the eclipse’s arc-like path from the Rio Grande to the northern reaches of Maine. Hertz reported a 1,000 percent increase in rental car reservations.

Indianapolis expected an influx of 100,000 visitors, and its tourist bureau listed the eclipse as one of its top tourism events for the year, including the NBA All-Star game and a Taylor Swift concert.

The next solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States will occur on Aug. 22, 2044, although the totality will be seen only in North Dakota and Montana. The next total eclipse to travel from coast to coast will occur on Aug. 12, 2045.

From The Epoch Times

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