OMAHA, Neb. — Americans looked to the heavens Monday to watch as the moon chased the sun from Oregon to South Carolina, breaking out in cheers, snapping photos or just staring upward in awe as darkness fell at midday.
“It’s really, really gorgeous,” said Manny Ortiz, wearing his First National Bank eclipse glasses as he gazed at the sky over Omaha. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to see another one of these in my lifetime.”
The much-anticipated total solar eclipse began at 9:05 a.m. near Madras, Oregon, then raced across primarily rural America at 2,000 mph along a 70 mile-wide corridor before reaching near Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:35 p.m.
Crowds estimated in the millions gravitated to the path of totality for an optimal view of the Great American Eclipse, the first to darken the mainland since 1979 and the first to sweep across the continental United States since 1918.
Mr. Ortiz and a half-dozen of his co-workers were among the lucky ones. Wearing matching black-and-green solar eclipse T-shirts, they left their office at First National Bank shortly before lunch to revel in the mania with hundreds of others watching from Turner Park in Omaha, which saw 98 percent totality at 1:04 p.m.
Not everyone was blown away. “Right now it looks like a banana,” said Blake Netherton, who watched with his Creighton University classmate Matthew Strother after scoring eclipse glasses minutes earlier from the Black Oak Grill.