By Kristy Zurbrick
Well over 1,000 people flocked to Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park outside of West Jefferson to witness—carefully, through protective eyewear—a solar eclipse that had the whole country abuzz.
On Aug. 21, for the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse was visible in a narrow band from the West Coast to the East Coast. During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between Earth and the sun. During a total solar eclipse, the moon appears to cover the sun entirely, turning skies dark in the middle of the day.
While Ohio wasn’t in the path of 100 percent totality, people everywhere headed outside just after lunchtime to be a part of history, albeit on the fringe. In central Ohio, the moon started “taking a bite” out of the sun at about 1 p.m., reaching 90 percent totality around 2:30.
Eclipse glasses outfitted with solar filters were a hot commodity in the days leading up to the event, as looking directly at the sun can damage the eyes’ retinas. Many of the folks who showed up at Battelle Darby Creek lined up for free glasses provided by the Center of Science and Industry (COSI). The park was one of 33 locations in central Ohio where COSI set up eclipse-themed activities and passed out glasses on Aug. 21.
“The last week and a half, our phone has done nothing but ring with people asking if we had glasses. We knew we were going to be busy today,” said Debbie Ruppersburg, park naturalist.
Katie Pallaci, a Hilliard resident, was among the hundreds who showed up at the park for the big event—and for glasses. Earlier in the day, she dropped her daughter off for her first day of kindergarten. She figured, what better way to spend the rest of her day off than viewing the eclipse.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I thought I’d like to take part,” she said.
Some showed up at the park with glasses already in hand. One couple said their optometrist was passing them out for free. Others purchased pairs at area stores.
West Jefferson resident Vicki Germann got hers the day before at the Hollywood Casino on the west side of Columbus. She said she stood in line for about 20 minutes to get two pairs for her grandsons, Ben and Nash Barrett of Galloway.
“They were free but after gambling (while we were there), we ended up ‘paying’ $100 apiece for them,” she said, laughing.
Alys Horne, a west Columbus resident, came equipped with a pinhole viewer she made herself using a Cheerios cereal box. Even though clouds shrouded the view toward the end of the eclipse, the daycare teacher said the experience was well worth the day off from work.
“You don’t get to see this every day. It’s fun to interact with space because it’s not something you always think about,” Horne said. “Plus, I think every kid secretly wants to be an astronaut. So, this is me living out my childhood dream with my Cheerios.”
Many of the small groups who showed up at the park consisted of multiple generations of the same family. Sally Creasap of Galloway brought her daughter, Emily, “so she could be a part of it.” Emily was a few days away from starting her sophomore year at Central Crossing in the South-Western City Schools District.
The 15-year-old grasped the historic significance of the occasion, saying, “It’s something you can tell your kids about some day. That’s pretty much why I wanted to come.”