You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

USA forgets its troubles as solar eclipse captivates nation

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/21/2017 Rick Hampson
UP NEXT
UP NEXT

A summer of shock — threats of nuclear war from North Korea, neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville — was graced by a few hours of awe, as Americans marveled Monday at their first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since Woodrow Wilson was in the White House.

Before the celestial event, Kev Brock thought her husband's enthusiasm was too much, thought the people she'd read about crying and cheering at past eclipses were just “overly dramatic.”

But then the moon crossed the sun in Riverfront Park in Salem, Ore.: “One of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen,'' she said. "It made me cry and my children cheered.” 

Even astronomers were stunned. "The sun disappearing in midday? The stars coming out? Truly special,'' said Steve White, the director of Fresno State University's Downing Planetarium.

Wyoming's clear skies drew hundreds to Grand Targhee Resort, elev. 10,000 feet, in Alta, Wyo. "I've never seen the diamond ring so bright, so extraordinarily brilliant," said Clare Coss, 81, who came from New York City to view her third total solar eclipse.

Fears of clouds and wildfire smoke were misplaced; watchers enjoyed a brilliant totality. "There's something so fabulous about the cosmic magic bringing us all together," said Blanche Cook, 78, another New Yorker at the resort.

It had been 99 years since America's last Pacific-to-Atlantic total solar eclipse in 1919, and 38 years since the last such eclipse occurred in the continental U.S. That was 1979, before almost half of Americans alive Monday were born.

A nation increasingly separated by politics was unified by a natural event that started in the blue state of Oregon and ended about 90 minutes later in red South Carolina.

TOPSHOT - The "diamond ring effect" is seen during a total solar eclipse as seen from the Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience on August 21, 2017 in Madras, Oregon. 
Millions will be able to witness the total eclipse that will touch land in Oregon on the west coast and continue through South Carolina on the east coast.  / AFP PHOTO / STAN HONDA        (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images) Watching the 2017 Solar Eclipse Across the U.S.

Slideshow by news services

Total solar eclipse:Millions watch in awe

Eclipse shade:Moon trolls sun on Twitter

Eclipse snack showdown:Golden CupCakes vs. Moon Pie

1979 solar eclipse: News anchor hoped 2017 event would 'fall on a world at peace'

People came from all over to see day turn into night — darkness at noon as the moon's shadow raced across the land at 2,000 mph. 

Visibility, crystal clear when the eclipse developed in the Pacific Northwest, was variable thereafter.

Clouds obscured the view on the Plains in Nebraska and rain drenched would-be eclipse watchers in St. Joseph, Mo., before stopping just long enough for a glimpse of the heavens. Clear skies prevailed in Nashville and much of the mid-South.

Things were trickier in Charleston, S.C., where the partially eclipsed sun played peekaboo with a layer of stratocumulus clouds. "We want to punch the clouds right in the face," said Terry Tucker of Vineland, N.J., who came south to see the eclipse with his wife and son. 

As the moment of totality approached, a thunderstorm blew up just north of the city, illuminating the growing darkness with wild bolts of lightning. But when the eclipse finally occurred, Tucker and others in historic Marion Square could see it. 

The TV star of the day was CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam in St. Joseph. For much of the morning she was dripping, chillingly wet and obviously wondering what moron on the assignment desk sent her to cover a solar eclipse in the middle of a rainstorm.

Then, suddenly, skies cleared and a nationwide audience was treated not only to the sight of the eclipse and the cheers of the crowd with whom Elam was viewing, but the exhalation of a journalist who did, after all, have a story.

The crowd at the Nashville eclipse-viewing party watches the start of the eclipse at First Tennessee Park. © Shelley Mays, The Tennessean via USA TODAY NETWORK The crowd at the Nashville eclipse-viewing party watches the start of the eclipse at First Tennessee Park. People came from all over the world for a look. Mike Dunz, a German, drove 800 miles from Florida to reach the path of totality in Gallatin, Tenn. "I saw one in Germany in 1999 and there was nothing, no way in this world to describe when the moon blocks out the sun," he said.

Sai Vemu and Karthik Venmuri, college students from India, were there, too. "Never in our lives have we witnessed anything like this and never again in India will we get to see it," Vemu said. "When we learned of this, we knew we must come."

Excitement extended outside the primary, 70-mile-wide viewing band. A partial eclipse was visible in sections of all 50 states, not just the 14 through which the path of totality passed. 

On Garret Mountain, overlooking the old industrial city of Paterson, N.J., outside the path of totality, people gathered on a broad lawn, explaining to each other in several different languages how to use eclipse glasses.

Some had homemade viewing devices, fashioned from cardboard and a plastic filter. Others had special glasses. As they first glimpsed the shadow blocking much of the sun, many gasped — something everyone does in the same language.

Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, Ore., hosted the first "Eclipse Game'' in baseball history. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes played the Hillsboro Hops in a game with the first "eclipse delay" in baseball history.

Fans from 34 states and eight countries attended. Joan Bouchard came to share the moment with her granddaughter. "I will never be around to see another one,'' she said, "so this was very important.’’

It may not be the last one for her granddaughter, Chase, who'd been surprised by all the hoopla. “Now that I've seen it,'' the girl said, "I would definitely go again."

A group of students from Athens, Ohio, watched the show while camped in front of Nashville's Parthenon. Now, they're looking forward to the next one in North America in 2024. 

One of them, Benjamin Weiser, observed, "It's a good time to be alive." 

Contributing: Doyle Rice in Charleston, S.C.; Trevor Hughes in Alta, Wyo.; Lindy Washburn of The Record in Woodland Park, N.J; Gary Horowitz and Jonathan Bach of the Salem, Ore., Statesman Journal; Jordan Buie and Joel Ebert of the Nashville Tennessean.  

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From USA TODAY

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon