They came. They saw, presuming it wasn’t too cloudy. Nebraska conquered.
In the span of three hours – with the big show lasting a maximum of 157 seconds – what was billed as the “Great American Eclipse” passed over Nebraska and into Missouri, not to mention the record books. Years of planning and promotion went off without any hitch, beyond some pesky clouds that rolled into southeastern Nebraska right around the moment of totality.
Monday’s total solar eclipse drew “hundreds of thousands” of visitors to visit the Good Life, according to the Nebraska Tourism Commission, which also estimated the state received $133 million in publicity related to the phenomenon. Those numbers are staggering, likely proving true Gov. Pete Ricketts’ prediction last month that the eclipse would be the state’s largest-ever tourism event.
One thing that can’t be quantified, though, is the impressive show of unity that stretched from border to border along Nebraska’s 436-mile path of totality.
Calling it “Nebraska nice,” while accurate, would be a bit corny. Thousands of people from all across the country and world came together, whether in Alliance, Ravenna, Lincoln, Beatrice, Falls City or elsewhere, for a collective experience became friends, even if only for a matter of minutes or hours, to share stories and a rare celestial occurrence.
Anecdotes stretched from the Wyoming state line to the Missouri River. Italian travelers and Nebraskans overcame a language barrier at a Hyannis gas station. Players from the Lincoln Saltdogs and Gary SouthShore Railcats lay on the field to stare at the sky during their baseball game’s eclipse delay. (Yes, dogs and cats took in the eclipse together – without mass hysteria.)
Even on the steps of the state Capitol – the site of protests and rallies often fueled by anger and disagreement – people united for a communal experience, a scene in the heavens that transcended the daily grind on the ground.
The differences that so often divide – language, ideologies, geography, etc. – fell by the wayside as all looked to the sky.
For many who witnessed the eclipse, those memories will be just as indelible as the sky going dark. Partaking in the moment with complete strangers from around the country and the globe who piled into Nebraska will be remembered as fondly as seeing the surrounding landscape dim, being illuminated only by the solar corona that stretched far enough to be seen beyond the moon’s outline.
The Cornhusker State won’t again be in the path of a total solar eclipse until May 3, 2106, outside of most of our lifetimes. Still, it’s clear that Nebraskans – and our worldwide guests – made this one count.