Photo by Joe Boyle
Emily Kenny, who works in the youth services department at the Oak Lawn Library, Skypes back her observations from Shawnee National Forest outside of Carbondale Monday where the solar eclipse could be seen at 100 percent totality.
The curious arrived in droves Monday afternoon at the Oak Lawn Library to follow the sun and moon – and witness a little history.
Reports that clouds would block some of the view of the solar eclipse that would reach its totality locally at about 1:19 p.m. did not deter the crowd. Oak Lawn Library officials estimated that nearly 2,000 people arrived to witness the solar eclipse, the first time it is has occurred in this country since 1979. However, this is the first time a solar eclipse has covered most of the continental United States since 1918.
The news resonated with the people that began arriving just before noon and filled the adjacent Village Green as well as the library. The Oak Lawn Library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave., parking lots were filled before 1 p.m. as motorists scrambled to find a place to park.
“I was shocked, but I guess I’m always shocked at these things,” said Jim Deiters, director of the Oak Lawn Library. “I was shocked at the amount of people who turned out for the tornado event in the spring (the 50th anniversary ceremony that was held at the library about the tornado that ravaged Oak Lawn drew a large crowd), but this is really something.”
Students, moms with kids in strollers and senior citizens arrived at the Village Green with the hope that they could receive the specially made glasses that would allow them to view the solar eclipse. Large crowds gathered around library volunteers who passed out the glasses. Within 15 minutes, the glasses were all distributed. The free eclipse glasses were provided by STAR_Net.
“That was amazing,” said Deiters. “We had 700 glasses and we passed them all out. I didn’t think we were going to run out.”
While the crowds gathered outside, visitors could also view Emily Kenny, who works in the youth service program at the Oak Lawn Library, who was Skyping live from Shawnee National Forest outside of Carbondale where people could view the eclipse at 100 percent totality. People filled the basement floor conference rooms of the library to view Kenny’s reports that were seen on several large TV screens.
Kenny said that the sun was not as bright as usual after the eclipse reached its totality point. She mentioned that she could see just a bit of light and it felt unusual.
“It was also well into the 90s and the temperature has dropped to 89 degrees,” Kenny said. “It’s a little awkward. In a manner of five minutes, it has dropped 11 degrees.”
Kenny added that a “strange haze” covered the sky after the solar eclipse had reached its totality.
“It was very quiet,” Kenny said. “The animals and insects are starting to come out again.”
Meanwhile, the crowds grew larger outside as people shared their glasses with other curious onlookers to see the eclipse. While clouds blocked the view of the sun momentarily, patient viewers were able to see the eclipse moments later.
Tina Parente, a Burbank resident, was seated on her car hood near the library entrance and said she got a perfect view of the eclipse.
“It looked like a ball at first and then you could see it cross (the sun) slowly,” Parente said. “It’s dark and then you notice a light, like a crescent. It was great to see.”
Parente then shared her glasses with other people to witness what she had just seen.
While many in the crowd that showed up at the library and Village Green were able to get at least a glimpse of the eclipse, there were also many who didn’t but they remained in a festive mood. Family members brought blankets to sit on at the Village Green to view the eclipse and talk to other people about the historic event. Kids in attendance also filled the playground.
Kenny had said that the event had been planned for six months. The hope was that by her traveling to southern Illinois to Skype back her observations that they would draw more interested patrons and children. The event was designed for children ages 7 and up accompanied by an adult.
She made a point to say that event was for all ages and “adults are more than welcome to drop by.”
Deiters continued to talk to people who were still outside after the eclipse reached its totality, eager to share his glasses with them so they could see the eclipse.
“This was truly amazing,” he said.