Editorial: Fond memories of one brief, dark moment

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Spectators cheer as the solar eclipse reaches its totality during the Eclipsing the Renaissance eclipse viewing event at the Columbus Airport Airpark on Monday.

On one hand, the total solar eclipse that was visible for just under four minutes in our area on Monday afternoon was really something. On the other hand, it really wasn’t as big a something as anticipated.

Near picture-perfect weather did draw visitors from near and far to our community and others in the path of totality, though it will take some high-level ciphering and perhaps consulting the stars to determine how many skygazers and day-trippers came, saw and left. Clearly, though, as The Republic’s Brian Blair reported after the eclipse, crowds didn’t approach the six-figure swarms that emergency responders had planned for.

“The crowds just didn’t come here. But, you know what, we were prepared,” Bartholomew County Chief Deputy John Martoccia told Blair. “…We were definitely prepared for pretty much anything. But if we didn’t prepare for it and something happens, where would we be?”

“I’d rather have overprepared and had adequate staffing for the event and everybody have a good time, versus, ‘Hey, we don’t have enough officers and we’re starting to see problems because of that,’” CPD spokesman Lt. Matt Harris said.

Isn’t that just the way of the world? Not knowing what to expect, local law enforcement officers and first-responders wisely planned for Murphy’s Law. The result, though, at least in part due to an overabundance of preparation, was the opposite. “I’m not even sure we had an eclipse-related call,” Martoccia said. Likewise, Columbus police said there were very few issues to deal with leading up to, during, and after the eclipse. Probably the biggest issue was traffic congestion heading south on Interstate 65 after the eclipse.

Even though the crowds didn’t overwhelm us, visitors did show up in large numbers for the constellation of events that had been planned. The Eclipsing the Renaissance festival at Columbus Airpark drew an estimated 4,000 visitors, and crowds turned out at venues as varied as Central Middle School and the Henry Breeding Farm near Edinburgh. Those visitors will take with them rare, and we hope, fond memories of their time spent here.

On the whole, the day of the eclipse felt subdued. Traffic, especially during totality, was far less than on any given weekday, owing to the large number of people who were given the day off to enjoy this rare phenomenon.

Along with the eclipse, we here at The Republic witnessed another eerily calm spectacle happening at the same time: An almost vehicle-free National Road. Those of us who were working in the office on Monday to bring you online coverage of the eclipse events took a few minutes to step outside around 3 p.m. to witness the brief midday darkness during totality. To say we were awe-struck doesn’t do it justice. We lack words to adequately describe the majesty of this otherworldly wonder that we will not soon forget.

In conclusion and in totality, let us say again that the total solar eclipse of 2024 was really something, while also associating ourselves with this sentiment from Martoccia: “I’m just glad it’s behind us now, and we can move on.”