EDITORIAL: An eclipse that breaks boundaries

York Dispatch

For a few hours on Monday, Aug. 21, divisions faded across the country as the sun dimmed, was blotted out in some areas, then returned.

Crowds of people gathered to watch the astronomical spectacle at schools, parks, churches and in Times Square. For once, there were no political affiliations, no races or ethnicities, just Americans looking up at the sky to watch a natural phenomenon that hadn't been seen across the nation for nearly 100 years.

This is science we all believe in, that we can all see. The time, date and location had been pinpointed for decades, and the eclipse came just as it was supposed to, starting off the coast of Oregon at its appointed time, moving east across the country over the next four hours, ending off the coast of South Carolina.

Students and staff at Yorkshire Elementary School take a look at the eclipse Monday, August 21, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

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Communities in the path of the totality saw people pour in to stare at the sky through solar glasses and filtered telescopes or watch as shadows in viewers made from cereal boxes showed a sun that went from a circle to a crescent to nothing. 

For weeks, news outlets have been telling people what would happen so everyone would be prepared. By Monday, radio stations were warning listeners not to stare, while broadcasting such songs as "Moon Shadow," "Black Hole Sun" and, of course, "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

As the eclipse began in York, children and adults alike were outside to see the event. Even though only 80 percent of the sun was covered by the moon here, people watched through their glasses and shadowboxes.

Those who had bought the new glasses that made it safe to stare at the sun made sure everyone who wanted a look had a chance to see the sliver of the sun behind the moon.

It was a quintessentially 2017 event, with NASA livestreaming as the shadow crossed the country, fans sharing playlists via Twitter, and photos all over social media of people in their glasses staring upward.

Of course, it was soon over. The sun returned, and with it the normal business of the day. Even before the moon had completely passed, there were memes out of the president looking directly at the sun without solar glasses, and there was a spike of people using Google to search "I can't see" and "My eyes hurt."

But the bonding experience had happened. For a few hours, we were all children gawking at a sight we rarely see, and we did it without fighting over the glasses or pushing to get to the front of the line. No one was questioning what they had seen, no one was doubting that, indeed, the moon blocked the sun for a short period of time. 

Let's remember the experience as we go back to debating climate change, health care, Russia and North Korea and Afghanistan.

And let's make plans to do it again. On April 8, 2024, the shadow of the moon will again block the sun, hitting the United States in Texas and passing almost directly over York before pushing northeast through Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. Save the date.