Memory of eclipse still fresh a year later

August 22, 2018

It’s been a year since thousands in and around Beatrice looked to the skies as the total solar eclipse cast its shadow over the plains.

For those at Homestead National Monument, where thousands of spectators staked out to admire the rare, celestial event on Aug. 21, 2017, memories from that day are still fresh.

“I think looking back at it, not only for Homestead but for the community and the state, it was a really fascinating event,” said Homestead Superintendent Mark Engler. “And while we were in the path of totality, I think the sun shined brightly over the monument, the community and the state.”

For two minutes, 34 seconds, the moon totally obscured the sun, casting a shadow briefly in the middle of that August afternoon. Pesky clouds leading up to the eclipse threatened to block out the once-in-a-lifetime event, but those at Homestead were afforded a lucky break.

In Beatrice, sounds of people cheering came from all directions, with sounds of fireworks as darkness enveloped the city a little after 1 p.m., the Daily Sun reported.

Engler remembers the event fondly, recalling how Homestead became the veritable center of eclipse activity on that August weekend.

The monument not only attracted media from around the country - CBS, ABC, NPR, among others - but was also an official NASA site for the event. Bill Nye the Science Guy was among the thousands, too.

A year later, Engler said Homestead is still providing feedback to NASA and federal highway officials, who are planning for the next total solar eclipse in 2024. That eclipse will pass through Mexico, then from Texas to Maine.

“We’ve been working with others to make sure that we properly documented the event...getting the word out on best practices,” Engler said.

Engler praised area agencies and groups that helped facilitate the influx of crowds.

“Looking back, the help and support provided by so many including the City of Beatrice, Gage County, State of Nebraska, Friends of Homestead, Educational Service Unit #5, Hevelone and Coffin Family Foundations, park neighbors, volunteers and so many others was exemplary and was critical to the overall experience,” he said.

The monument is also working with children from around the country working to achieve junior ranger badges related to eclipse.

Homestead was recognized earlier this summer with the National Park Services’ Achieving Relevance Interpretative Team Award for its work with last year’s eclipse.

Media coverage of the event at Homestead has garnered praise over the past couple of months, as well.

The 360-degree video “Total Eclipse of the Heartland,” featuring footage from Homestead and produced by Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, was selected as one of 25 films in the PBS Online Film Festival in July.

ABC News was also honored for its eclipse coverage at Homestead, nominated for an Outstanding News Special Emmy for its segment “The Great American Eclipse.” Those awards will be presented on Oct. 1.

For Engler, one of the lasting memories from that summer day were the lines of traffic that stretched for miles, as people raced to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.

“It was an awesome experience, and for many, they will remember it for a lifetime,” he said. “And to be in the center of this, not only for the National Park Service and for the state...what a positive, but powerful experience.”

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