The Great American Eclipse May Be Old News Now, But It’s Still Worth Talking About

08/22/2017 01:20 pm ET Updated Aug 25, 2017
Phone snap of Linda Joy’s Nikon’s viewing monitor showing the glowing ring of the sun.
Linda Joy
Phone snap of Linda Joy’s Nikon’s viewing monitor showing the glowing ring of the sun.

The Great American Eclipse has come and gone, but those who ventured into the totality zones that swept across 14 states will remember it for years to come.

We drove from the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina, leaving there at 9 a.m. to view the eclipse within the totality zone on the coast of South Carolina. Traffic southbound on I-95 was sluggish, with RVs and SUVs out-numbering the big rigs. We rolled into our hotel in Murrell’s Inlet at 2:15 p.m., pleased to be only one hour behind our projected ETA. We checked into our hotel, The Inlet Sports Lodge, a luxury boutique property that caters to golfers and fisherfolk, then headed to the beach for a few hours before dinner.

After dinner at Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet, we strolled over to the Tuna Shack, a casual waterfront bar and grill with outdoor seating, to relax and listen to the live entertainment. People were enjoying the spirit of the evening with spirits from a bottle, seat-dancing, and singing along with the guitarist. Many of these were locals, but others, like us traveled here exclusively to see the eclipse.

We awoke Monday morning disappointed by thunder and rain, but not distressed. The only thing we knew for certain was at 2:47 p.m. in Georgetown, S.C. the moon would blot out the sun whether or not we could see it through the clouds. The weather gurus promised the rain would abate before the eclipse began and sure enough, by the time we left our hotel the rain had stopped.

Georgetown closed off Front St. for the duration of eclipse.
carolyn burns bass
Georgetown closed off Front St. for the duration of eclipse.

We could have hung out in Murrells Inlet to watch the eclipse from the hotel’s charming widow’s walk, but Murrells Inlet was only 99 percent within the totality zone. Having driven this far to see a total eclipse of the sun, we weren’t about to settle at 99 percent. It took us more than an hour to get 20 miles in bumper-to-bumper traffic heading south along Hwy 17 with all of the other totality geeks, winding up in Georgetown and our viewing party at the Kaminski House Museum.

Historic Kaminski House in Georgetown hosted a viewing party on their expansive lawn.
robin richardson
Historic Kaminski House in Georgetown hosted a viewing party on their expansive lawn.

Georgetown is a small coastal hamlet about 80 miles north of Charleston. By the time we got into Georgetown and parked, the party was well underway throughout the town. Front St. through downtown Georgetown was closed to traffic for a good, old-fashioned street party. People were already crowding around and heading toward the waterfront along Winyah Bay for a clear view of the sun’s path. We had tickets to a viewing party at the Kaminski House Museum, a historic two-house complex and event center. We parked our beach chairs, pocketed our eclipse glasses, and mingled into the festive crowd.

Left: Tom and Bonnie Brown of Virginia Beach show off their DIY eclipse glasses made from paper plates to block the entire fa
carolyn burns bass
Left: Tom and Bonnie Brown of Virginia Beach show off their DIY eclipse glasses made from paper plates to block the entire face from the eclipsing sun rays. They even had eclipse glasses for their dog, Butler. Right: Robin Richardson of Apex, N.C. looks to the sun as the eclipse begins.

Even before the eclipse began, the atmosphere was charged with excitement. We met people from all over the world who came to view the eclipse. Some people brought their dogs and were training them to wear eclipse glasses in advance. Two couples thought eclipse day such an auspicious date they said their wedding vows before hundreds of onlookers on the green grass of Kaminski house, then enjoyed the eclipse with their families.

Kelly Turek and Chris Dutton brought their Tardis (compliments of Chuck Carte and Carolina Tardis) and sonic screwdrivers for
carolyn burns bass
Kelly Turek and Chris Dutton brought their Tardis (compliments of Chuck Carte and Carolina Tardis) and sonic screwdrivers for their eclipse wedding at Kaminski House.
Julian Simmons and Melissa Tuttle said their I-dos in a gorgeous casual setting on the lawn of Kaminski house as the eclipse
carolyn burns bass
Julian Simmons and Melissa Tuttle said their I-dos in a gorgeous casual setting on the lawn of Kaminski house as the eclipse was about half-way in.

Scattered clouds with swaths of brilliant blue sky dominated the South Carolina skies all day long. By the time the moon made first contact with the sun, our view was alternately bright and then cloud-covered. Still, people donned their eclipse glasses to watch the progress, astonished at how brilliant the eclipse could be seen through the clouds. I snapped a few photos with my Nikon SLR and also with my iPhone in sheer excitement of the moment, but I didn’t come prepared or expecting to shoot the eclipse. I was here for the story.

Science writer and amateur photographer Linda Joy sets up her camera for a once-in-a-lifetime photo op.
robin richardson
Science writer and amateur photographer Linda Joy sets up her camera for a once-in-a-lifetime photo op.

Linda Joy came ready to shoot. Her Nikon D7200 was outfitted with a solar filter and stabilized on a tripod. A science writer currently working for the FDA, she knew enough about photography to set up the shot and wait for the right moments to snap. Her efforts paid off. She generously sent me a phone snap of her Nikon’s viewing monitor showing the glowing ring of the sun.

Left: Janice Izzo and her son (both at left) came to occupy totality from the Philadelphia area with their friend Marianne Br
carolyn burns bass
Left: Janice Izzo and her son (both at left) came to occupy totality from the Philadelphia area with their friend Marianne Brotscul of Murrells Inlet. Center: The Rosales family, Yaudith, Derek, Julio and Matthew, originally from Mexico City, came to Georgetown from the Washington, DC area. Right: Cornelia Brauer and her son Linus Brauer, traveled from Stuttgart, Germany to view the eclipse by way of a road trip through Florida.

Until you’ve seen the blotting out of the sun with your own eyes, experienced the profound darkness and seen the stars emerge in the middle of the day, viewed the sun’s corona as a golden ring of fire, you won’t understand why hundreds of thousands of people flock to locations of solar eclipse totality. Looking around the crowd during the totality phase, I saw my own excitement reflected in the people around me. Smiles of childlike joy lit up the the faces of elderly people, while children shrieked as the light fell dark around them. Mouths dropped open in Os of speechless wonder, while the “oohs” and “ahhs” so familiar to firework displays harmonized all around me.

A dramatic sky over Winyah Bay just seconds after totality.
carolyn burns bass
A dramatic sky over Winyah Bay just seconds after totality.

After the polarizing events of Charlottesville just over a week ago, this gathering of people seeking a peaceful experience released a ray of hope for our nation’s future. I shared this once-in-a-lifetime event with a crowd of strangers, who for a few fleeting moments, became intimate friends.

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