On July 11, 1990, I looked up at the sun with a welding mask strapped to my head and shrugged my shoulders. On that date, my 10-year-old self viewed the tiny bit of a total eclipse which was visible from Arvada, Colorado, whose path was over Mexico City. It was completely underwhelming. Later that day, the local newscast said that the continental United States would be in the path of a total eclipse in 2017, when I would be very, very old. Furthermore, the path of the total eclipse would not hit the Denver metropolitan area, but rather all the way up in Wyoming. Yet, I told myself in that moment, that when that day would come, I would be sure to do whatever it took to see the 2017 Great American Eclipse.
On Sunday I loaded up my truck with an inflatable mattress, a sleeping bag and an array of other camping necessities. By the time the clock hit 6 a.m. I was off to Casper, Wyoming. I arrived at the Casper Speedway, a race track atop a high prairie bluff located a few miles to the north east of Casper proper, out on the plains. There I joined 20 other vehicles, mostly fellow Coloradans, to camp out and have a spectacular view of the solar eclipse.
The next day, we all positioned our vehicles to face the south and adorned our special made filters to view the imminent cosmic event. At 10:22 a.m. the moon began to touch the edge of the sun at the 1 o’clock position. Over the course of the next 78 minutes I periodically looked up and viewed the moon take a larger and larger bite out of the sun. While this was interesting, it was only marginally more appealing than the site I experienced in 1990. However, at 11:39 a.m. everything started to take on a strange, purplish hue. It was as if both dusk and dawn were fighting each other for command of the sky. The temperature got noticeably cooler. I experienced a strange sensation, as if I was both a bit dizzy and drowsy at the same time. Then, as has been reported during eclipses, I heard birds chirping as you do before sunrise, and dogs barked in the distance. A small herd of antelope approached a knoll to my south and huddled together.
At 11:41 a.m. the sun finally disappeared. The moment of seeing the sun blocked out by the moon in the middle of the day will easily go down as one of my top three life experiences. The photos I took of the landscape do not compare to what I actually experienced firsthand. The city lights of Casper popped on in the distance and screams of joy could be heard in every direction. Fireworks shot up from the valley below. I removed my filters and just stood spellbound looking at the alignment of two heavenly bodies with a smile on my face and the occasional overwhelmed laugh. It was truly a spiritual moment. Rays danced around the sun like the stories of the Miracle of the Sun in Fátima, Portugal in 1917. Then, in a second, what appeared to be a diamond shot out of the same 1 o’clock position where the eclipse had begun. It looked like the most illuminating diamond ring one could ever imagine. There was loud applause, but then, as sudden as it started, the total eclipse ended. It truly was worth the 27-year wait.