“No light in the day
“We watch; we may pray
“For the time we are one
“In line with the earth moon and sun
“Waiting for the sunshine sunshine”
— “Eclipse,” a new song by Gloria Bauermeister, with Michael Bauermeister.
On eclipse day, I wanted to hit replay so I could experience the phenomenon in yet another location. Spark and I made it to two local spots, the Washington riverfront and Lions Lake, but I wish I could have viewed the marvel at Shaw Nature Reserve too. I had a place picked out with a spectacular view.
No matter. Kibitzing with folks who came to Washington turned out to be rewarding and interesting. At totality, Spark and I sat at the riverfront park, at the edge of a crowd, near some trees — and when the moon completely covered the sun, got caught up in the excitement as people whooped and cheered.
The eclipse was so much more than I expected, as were the people who viewed it. Goodwill and frivolity shone bright as strangers offered one another bottles of water and shared bits of information — a summer, picnic-like atmosphere prevailed with blankets spread on the grass, lined with coolers, Frisbees and cameras — straw hats, umbrellas and canopies providing shade.
The natural miracle we were privileged to see affected many and prompted Augusta musician Gloria Bauermeister to mark its arrival in her own unique way.
“When I heard we were going to have a total eclipse, I knew I wanted to write a song about it, because what an inspiring topic! The song is about the eclipse but it is also about the hope that we will be mindful of how we are affecting our planet,” Gloria said. She added that the eclipse event unified the world as we all “focused on the beautiful and inspiring sun and moon aligned.”
At riverfront park and the eclipse parking lot on Grand Avenue by Lions Lake, Spark and I counted 25 license plates from different states, including one from Washington, D.C., and a couple from Canada. Most were from Missouri and Illinois, but there were plenty from Wisconsin and Iowa too.
The distances people traveled to see the eclipse was as impressive as the stories they shared. Many said they wouldn’t have missed “this once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Some tied in a trip here with visits to family, but Jack and Katie Doyle, of Pittsburg, flew in specifically for the eclipse.
The couple looked for a city that had a nonstop flight, and chose St. Louis. After spending the night in Wentzville, they crossed the bridge into Washington, choosing our community because it’s a small town next to a river and isn’t on an interstate — towns located on those busy thoroughfares would draw big crowds, so they thought. The experience turned out to be well worth all the money they spent, the couple said, euphoric after the rush that came with totality.
For two young men from Canada, sheer luck put them in the right place at the right time. Shawn Bennett and Priyank Malvania were finishing up an internship at Riot Games in Clayton and were blown away by the eclipse. If they’d stayed in Clayton they only would have had seconds of darkness.
Bennett said how amazing the eclipse was and then came up with a thought I hadn’t considered. He said the eclipse made him wonder how people from history felt, long ago when the sun disappeared, not knowing why it happened and if it would come back or if doomsday had arrived.
During totality it did feel odd, the light taking on a different quality, and the buzz of cicadas increasing, and street lights suddenly blinking on along Front Street.
Earlier in the day, I met a woman with connections to our area, sitting under a pavilion south of Lions Lake. Betty Ridge, from Springfield, Mo., said she’d always liked Washington.
It turns out Ridge was here in 1972 to complete a weeklong internship at The Missourian for a class she took in community newspaper, part of her course work in journalism school at Mizzou. She was interested in photography and the late Jim Miller Jr. helped her with a newspaper spread of photographs she took of Washington’s architecture. Ridge also had dinner at the late Jim Miller Sr.’s home.
Even though lots of day-trippers came from far and wide to view the eclipse in Washington, it appears our world really is quite small; on Monday it was the sun and moon that performed and drew us together in wonder for a spectacular show none of us will ever forget.
What a memorable and startling few hours it turned out to be.