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Chasing the Eclipse

By Shannon Sawtell

Cows in a field

We left around 10:15 a.m. heading to Temple, Texas- into the path of totality. At first the drive was normal, but about an hour into our 2.5 hour drive from Houston, we started seeing people speckling the sides of the road wearing what looked like 3D glasses and staring at the sun. We soon joined them, pulling off in the rural parts of Texas to stare at the sky. We stopped on a country road, next to a green patch of grass with a historic home sitting up on the hill. We sat with the cows for a moment, wondering what they would be thinking as it gets dark for almost four minutes. One of my favorite parts of the drive was seeing people from all walks of life spending more time outside than they maybe would have on a normal Monday. 

As soon as the eclipse began, we started seeing more and more parking lots full of people looking up. It looked like the parking for the Super Bowl: people sitting on tailgates and camping chairs in the asphalt, gathering to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience. 

Once we got to Temple, we found a local park and frolicked around a field of butterflies. We were next to a soccer pitch where a group of people laughed and enjoyed the moments leading up to the total eclipse, a rare experience.

A field in Texas

For a moment I thought about how many people spent $3 to get a pair of eclipse glasses and how the film would join hundred of other discarded items in our landfills. I thought about what the carbon footprint was to manufacture and transport all of the glasses for just a few minutes of use. Prior to the eclipse I never considered the carbon footprint from all who traveled near and far to see the 2024 Texas eclipse. My friend flew in for the week, and said over 20 people on their flight had flown in from India to see this eclipse. Meeting people from near and far, we sat with a photographer who captured the moment. 

Total solar eclipse

As the moon covered the sun, the light began to dim across the field and we started noticing all of the bugs getting ready for the big moment. The bright Texas sun faded, barely shining between the clouds and within moments, it fell behind the moon, letting darkness take over the fields. People shouted “the sun! It’s gone!” And exclaimed their excitement behind us. The crows cawed and the bugs disappeared. We saw solar flares shoot out from the sun, watching for a few moments without our glasses as the sun stayed behind the moon.

The 3 minutes and 54 seconds went by so quickly. The birds returned to their normal routines and the sun came back as if it was never gone. For three minutes the world was still.

The sky as the moon eclipsed the sun

The experience was fantastic and we left with smiles on our faces, lucky to witness such a wonder, but we had no idea what the road ahead would hold... traffic, as it took us almost 6 hours to return 150 miles back to Houston.  It was worth it.

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