Total eclipse brings eerie silence to Casper, Wyo., sense of community across the country
August 21, 2017
Usually 2 a.m. is my favorite time to drive, especially when I embark on a long road trip. The night is quiet and the roads are clear. This was different.
Monday, even at 2 a.m., red taillights lit up the dark night. The long trail of cars traveling north looked like an army of angry, red ants.
I dragged myself out of bed to drive to Casper, Wyo., to see the eclipse in its totality, just like everyone else on the road.
Even so, the traffic moved well, and I pulled into a Walmart parking lot in Casper at about 6 a.m. The lot was packed with tents, trailers and rows of cars.
I put my Jeep in park and took a nap. I woke up a couple hours later as the lot began to stir. A group across from me had New York license plates. They made coffee in a French press, poured each other steaming cups and chatted with other campers.
I walked to the Starbucks across the street. People squeezed themselves into the small building to get their caffeine fix. Some folks took photos of the crowd.
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Some Casper locals managed to claim their regular tables early. One older gentleman sat taking notes as he read his Bible and tried to ignore an awakening crowd.
I drove to an old friend's house in Casper as eclipse hour grew near. They set up beanbags and chairs in the front lawn, as did their neighbors.
When the moon obscured the first chunk of the sun, the whole neighborhood stared up at the sky through their special glasses. It had begun.
Kids and adults alike searched the neighborhood for half moon shadows cast by the moon. It started to get darker. I'd been sweating at the start in the near 90-degree heat. As the it cooled down to 70 and then 60 degrees, I thought about running to get my jacket.
We could hear cheers emanating from downtown Casper as the sky darkened.
And then the sun was gone, a hot, yellow ring surrounding the moon.
I took off my glasses. It could have been 9 p.m.
The birds that chirped and tweeted fell silent. The dogs playing around the neighborhood stood still. A hush fell over even the humans who had made such a ruckus all weekend.
When the sun started to peek out again, I could hear fireworks in the distance. Car engines roared to life as thousands prepared for a long journey home.
We headed inside to eat lunch and watch the news as others across the country witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event just after we did.
It was incredible, I thought, to share this with so many other Americans. If even for just a moment, we all had something in common.
— Kelly Ragan writes features and covers health for The Greeley Tribune. Have a tip? Want to share your story? Call (970) 392-4424, email email@example.com or connect on Twitter @kelly_raygun.