Retired Lt. Col. Elizabeth McCain survived a gunshot wound in Afghanistan in 2011. She lived, she said, to be able to see events like the solar eclipse Monday.
McCain drove in from Alexandria, Virginia to attend the Sandhills Purple Heart Dinner, Aug. 19, in Fayetteville, and wound up viewing the eclipse from Carvers Creek State Park in Spring Lake.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime. I stayed alive for a reason . . . to me it’s the power and glory of God. That’s why I’m here,” she said.
An eclipse, said Colleen Bowers, a park ranger at Carvers Creek, is all about shadows.
“It’s when one object moves in front of another. The moon is basically shadowing or covering up the atmosphere of the sun.”
The Sandhills region received an eclipse of 90 to 95 percent, explained Bowers in a presentation to park attendees. Totality, when the sun completely covers the moon, happened across the country, including in South Carolina. It’s syzygy, or a Greek word for yoked together, which takes place when the sun, moon and Earth align.
Bowers demonstrated the distance of the sun from the Earth (92.96 million miles) and talked about the difference in size. The sun’s diameter is 863,000 miles while the Earth’s of 8,000.
For Sgt. 1st Class John Cushman, a Fort Bragg Soldier, and his Family; wife, Monette and sons, John, 14 and Ezra, 9, the eclipse provided an opportunity for a Family outing.
“We wanted our kids to be able to see it,” he said.
“It’s pretty cool,” Ezra said.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jack Delinois, a Soldier assigned to the 18th Fires Brigade, also watched the eclipse with his Family; wife, Irina and children, Alesia, 7 and Jayden, 6. He said it was both hot and historical.
“It was good,” Jayden said.
As the moon shadowed the sun, George Townson, a state park volunteer recorded the light and temperature every 10 minutes. He also invited guests to look at the eclipse through a welders mask.
From 2:20 to 2:30 p.m., the temperature dropped from 92.4 to 91.6 degrees, which means that the eclipse made the Earth cooler, a concept he explained to youth.
In addition to looking at the eclipse through glasses supplied by the park and through a welders mask, attendees also got to make solar bracelets, assemble pocket sun dials, and draw an eclipse and record a memory of the event on construction paper, as well listen to a presentation about the eclipse from Bowers and fellow park ranger, Jacob Fields.
“It’s hard to describe. I’ve never seen something like that before … amazing,” said Mike McNeil who watched the eclipse with his son, Gracen, 4 and girlfriend, Felicia Mullins.
“The next time, I may not be around to see one. It will be a long time from now,” said Travis Huber, a Marine Corps veteran, who drove in from Jacksonville, North Carolina to view the eclipse with his wife, Emily and children; Henry, 8, Isabelle, 7 and Annie, 3 and with Family friends.
According to NASA, the total eclipse stretched across 14 states in the U.S., going from coast to coast (Oregon to South Carolina).
The next total solar eclipse in the U.S. will occur April 8, 2024.