What started as a surprise, turned into a glorious celebration! Several months ago when we learned that NASA was giving away eclipse glasses to libraries we decided to order 1000 pairs to hand out to Washington Libraries. Those were quickly claimed, but NASA was kind enough to send us several thousand more, which we continued to distribute to interested libraries across the state. Then one day, out of the blue, our phones started ringing, “Where can I get eclipse glasses?” That was when we learned that NASA had published a list of all the libraries they’d given glasses to and we were listed as a place that was holding an event! A quick change of gears and the response was “We will be holding an event on the day of the eclipse and we will hand out glasses then.” But all we had left were 90 pairs. Hmmm.
Meanwhile we had an event to plan. Calls were made to find a local expert willing to speak at the event and we were fortunate to locate Ken Slavens from the Tacoma Astronomical Society (TAS), and Francisco Velez from the Evergreen Astrological Society who were willing to come to our event to present a program and be available to answer questions. OK, we were getting a good program together. Next we managed to buy 100 more pairs of glasses and learned that the TAS was bringing a whole bunch more. Things were falling into place nicely. Will anyone come we wondered?
Fast forward to this morning. Arriving at 7 a.m. we found a line snaking around the building. Some intrepid souls even slept in their cars in order to be sure they’d get glasses! As the morning went on more and more people arrived. By 8:30 a.m. when we started handing out glasses the line was seemingly endless. We estimate there were around 500 people waiting. All in all, we handed out 300 pairs of glasses to the assembled crowd. Others came with their own glasses to take part in the event. There were lots of homemade viewers, everything from cereal boxes to elaborate cardboard constructions. In the end, although we didn’t have enough glasses for everyone, it wasn’t a problem. Many people shared glasses and they were generously passed around.
The weather was perfect, the visiting astronomers were great. They brought posters, models, fielded questions and set up a telescope named “Luke Skywatcher” to project an image of the sun. Another telescope had been made safe for the event so you could look closely at the sun through the telescope. The astronomers shared safety tips and astronomical facts. The crowd was wonderfully engaged and often responded with applause and cheers. To keep kids busy while waiting, sidewalk chalk and coloring sheets were available. It became a community event where people made new acquaintances, talked with each other, and laughed and marveled at the glorious site. Our guest astronomers occasionally gave a countdown to our ‘totality’ – about 94%.
As we neared this the sky grew oddly dark, and the temperature dropped. People sat and chatted or milled around and commented on their experience. Then came the big announcement “We hit totality, this is it. This is the best we’ve got.” A wonderful, spontaneous cheer went up again. Eclipse glasses were passed around again, the view was spectacular and the crowd loved it. We were thrilled that hundreds of you came and enjoyed the eclipse here at the Washington State Library.
We didn’t set out to hold an eclipse program but sometimes serendipity happens and it’s best to just go with it. I don’t think we could have asked for a better morning!
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