CROSSVILLE, Tenn.—The path of totality is emptying out.
Soon after the the Great American Eclipse was over on Monday, hundreds of thousands of people began their migration home, many driving for hours, their eclipse glasses crumpled in the backseat like a ticket after a big show. Many are still on the road. They’ll show up to work tired and yawning, the skin under their eyes ringed with darkness, like a parting gift from the moon’s shadow over Earth. They will remember, in spurts, the fleeting image of a white ring hanging high in the violet sky, and feel their exhaustion was well worth it.
Before she started the drive back to Ohio, Katie Davis lay in the grass of a small clearing in Cumberland Mountain State Park in eastern Tennessee. Doug Hammock, her partner, prepared to pack up his telescope. Minutes ago, a wave of darkness had swept over the landscape and turned the sky into purple velvet, then roared away. Now the sun glowed with its usual midday intensity.
“It was the fastest two minutes of my life,” Davis said of the total solar eclipse.
There were plenty of things Davis and other eclipse spectators could prepare for as they planned their visit to totality, some for weeks or months. They reserved campsites and hotel rooms, charged their phones, slathered on sunscreen. What they couldn’t brace themselves for was how quick totality would be, and how they’d feel after.