The Great American Eclipse: Memory Maker By: Marc Sturisky

Image courtesy of Ashley Kropf

Feeling impatient but excited, Ashley Kropf arrived at a grassy common space inside of Clemson University’s main campus. She made the journey from North Carolina hoping to get a glimpse at a rare total solar eclipse crossing nearby her hometown, Charlotte.

Kropf had heard all about the eclipse that scientists called “monumental,” but wasn’t sure how much she’d enjoy it. Kropf stated that she’s never been that much into astronomy, so she just wanted the total eclipse to arrive as soon as possible instead of having to wait all day for something she wasn't sure she'd like.

Unfortunately, this group of seven, Kropf, her younger siblings, their two friends, and her parents, arrived a little late. By 11:00, thousands of people had already found spots, eager to see the eclipse too. It took them a little bit of time, but fortunately, Kropf found an area big enough where they could lay out a large blanket big enough for everyone. Not just was this spot big enough, but it was near the front of the entire event, close to the makeshift metal stage.

Time moved slowly, yet Kropf still found plenty to do during the wait. She made gummy worms with the Clemson chemistry club, made predictions of what the corona would look like, inspected moving germs under microscopes, made sun catchers, and read a few thick pamphlets about the eclipse. It was basically one big science fair spread across the massive lawn.

“People came to this event from all over,” recalled Kropf. Clemson's staff made sure to gleefully announce that people from every state and many countries had arrived to their university just to watch the big event.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Kropf

Spectators from every part of the lawn began cheering, clapping, and making as much noice as they could around two o’clock once a white weather balloon started rising into the air. Kropf wasn’t sure what was going on, but she believes that the balloon was either recording a live feed of the eclipse or of the 50,000 people at Clemson staring into the sky waiting for it to occur. Multiple drones acted as body guards to the balloons, surrounding it on all sides as it rised in altitude. At this moment, Kropf was waiting second by second for the eclipse to reach totality right above her.

At 2:37 PM on August 21, 2017, the Great American Eclipse hit Clemson, South Carolina, where Kropf was waiting with her family. The sky got very dark right where they were, and it felt as if they were the only people in South Carolina experiencing darkness. It was so strange being in the dark in a time supposed to be light. Kropf was shocked how the moon completely blocked the sun, preventing its light on a sunny afternoon day.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Kropf.

A man who Kropf had never met before, the self called “Eclipse Chaser,” stood on a podium on the field, telling everyone to remove their paper glasses. Since the sun was completely covered by the moon, everyone could stare into the sky with their naked eyes.

The Sky got very dark right where they were, and it felt as if they were the only people in South Carolina experiencing darkness.

Kropf called the sight “cool, awesome,” and “something I'd never seen before.” She will never forget the amazement she felt at having the sun just vanish, not from clouds, but from the moon!

The total eclipse finished after two and a half minutes, yet this moment will be a story that she will be able to share for years to come. In seven years when the next eclipse comes through the United States, Kropf will definitely be encouraging people to come chase it down.

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