Totality eclipses all expectations for locals who made trek

by | Apr 9, 2024 | ALLFFP, Environmental, Events, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania

The darkness confounded automated sensors and biological hiveminds alike.  

From a quaint park outside city hall in Indianapolis, Rob Belcourt and his partner Josh witnessed streetlights flick on in mid-afternoon and bustling city streets come to a standstill as the Indiana state capital experienced three minutes and 50 seconds in 100 percent totality during Monday’s solar eclipse.  

“It was incredible, it was wild,” said Belcourt, a Fredericksburg resident who flew to Chicago before driving to Indianapolis for Monday’s eclipse. “The world held its breath a little bit.” 

Rob Belcourt and his partner Josh take in totality on Monday in Indianapolis. (submitted photo)

Almost 200 miles away, at a garden center in Marysville, Ohio, Janelle Kennedy and her family measured the encroaching shadows and took stock of nearby wildlife as daylight became fully obscured for approximately three minutes.  

“There were actually some beehives, and as the sky started to darken the bees started to return to the hives and were all climbing in,” said Kennedy, a Fredericksburg resident who observed the once-in-20-years occurrence with her daughter Amber, son-in-law Jason, and grandsons Justin (14) and Harrison (11). 

“During totality, they were all completely still and calm.” 

Kennedy said she grew determined to experience totality after seeing a quote that likened a total eclipse to “seeing the sky get broken.”

“I read that quote and I thought I might not be alive the next time there’s one in North America,” she said. “And I’d never forgive myself.”

Unlike Belcourt, Kennedy and the scores of other area residents who traveled to one of the 12 states that comprised the so-called “path of totality,” viewers back home enjoyed a mere 87% coverage that peaked at 3:18 p.m.

Local photographer Erik Brito streamed a continuous shot of the eclipse as it appeared in Fredericksburg. As of Monday evening, Brito’s one-hour, 38-minute video — which was filmed using a specialized camera and lens — had nearly 60,000 views.

Spotsylvania County Public Schools did not dismiss early on Monday, but Sherise Anderson picked up her children early so they could witness history as a family.  

The Anderson family watches the eclipse. Photo by Taft Coghill Jr.

Five of the six members of the Anderson household attended the Fredericksburg Food Co-op’s watch party that attracted about 20 people. The co-op served guests free chips and dip. 

“The eclipse is something really cool,” Anderson said. “I think any time you can see a celestial event in your lifetime it’s really neat.” 

Anderson noted that while that the last time a total eclipse was visible in the U.S. was in 2017, the most recent one prior to that was in 1979. 

Nathaniel Anderson, 13, said it was an exciting event even though Virginia was not in the path of totality. He said the eclipse moved slower than he envisioned. 

“It’s just something you don’t know if you will see again in your lifetime,” Sherise Anderson said. “It is important for the kids to participate so they have those memories to look back on. They’ll remember that time we got together and watched the eclipse.”

The eclipse brought a crowd to the Central Rappahannock Library System’s Salem Church branch, where skygazers of all ages gathered for crafts and games and to watch the moon slide in front of the sun. 

Four-year-old Maddox Holmes of Fredericksburg was perched on a low brick wall outside the library with his special glasses at the ready and mom Hannah by his side. The preschooler had done his research and knew exactly what he was gazing at. “It’s the moon going in front of the sun,” he said. “It looks red and like a part of a circle.” 

Havanna Gilreath, also 4, gave a similar report. “I just see a half-moon of sun. It’s a little red. It’s kind of cool. I like this view.”

Above: Havana Gilreath watches the eclipse from CRRL Salem Church. Below: Children settle in to watch the show in the sky. (Photos by Kathy Knotts.)

While Fredericksburg wasn’t in total darkness, there was a definite change in the light beaming down. It was a different affair during the 2017 eclipse, said Pam Silverman, who was working at the Salem Church library at that time.

Tuesday was Silverman’s day off, but she was there nonetheless — sharing glasses with anyone who didn’t have a pair and talking to visitors who came to see what the fuss was about. 

She said the special glasses went faster this year than in 2017.

“The system was like out of them last week,” she said. “I felt bad for people who couldn’t get them. So I brought mine from the last eclipse.” 

Silverman says she may hang on to that pair until the next eclipse, which is scheduled to pass over the lower 48 states in August 2045. 

 (Reporters Taft Coghill Jr. and Kathy Knotts contributed to this story.)

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