Lungs burning and mop of wet hair dripping, senior Molly Terlouw burst through the auxiliary gym doors. A puddle trailed behind her. Shoes squeaking, she rushed through the art hallway to prepare for her 7 a.m. band practice. The torrents of rain outside were a nuisance most days. Today they were devastating. Today, the thick gray clouds would block her from seeing The Great American Eclipse.
Almost 100 miles away from the buzz surrounding 75th and Mission, junior Audrey Helmuth gazed at the passing landscape of central Missouri. Helmuth’s family had been planning this day for months. They had set alarm clocks to go off before dawn in order to beat the never ending traffic leading to the Marshal Missouri fairgrounds. Helmuth had decided to see for herself if all of the hype was valid. She on her way to see the eclipse in totality.
“I wanted to see it because I knew it was a very unique opportunity, especially somewhere so close to where we live,” Helmuth said. “Nothing that exciting happens in the Midwest but we were getting to see an eclipse so it was very exciting for me.”
Back in Prairie Village, it was second hour, and Terlouw’s prayers had yet to be answered. She tried to concentrate on Mr. Defeo’s instructions for their improv assignment, while floods of rain and crashes of thunder continued on outside.
She was convinced she wouldn't see the eclipse.
As the Helmuth family pulled into the fairgrounds, the dark blanket in the sky followed closely behind. Helmuth squinted into the veil concealing the sun. After all of their planning, the Helmuths were going to have to find somewhere new to watch the eclipse.
An hour of MapQuesting later, they found themselves at a small community center on the side of I-70. Surrounded by other last-minute viewers, they fixed their eyes on the sky. The clouds opened, and they experienced the natural wonder.
The shadows were sharper than ever. Street lights flickered on. Cicadas began humming, sleepy from their mid-day wake up call. Helmuth was captured by her surroundings. It was a singular moment she would remember for the rest of her life.
“Just the fact that I went through this huge process to see it made it a very cool thing,” Helmuth said. “Being there in that moment and having the chance to react in my own way was the best part.”
Back in Johnson County, the East football field darkened. Silence fell over the student body. Terlouw, surrounded by her peers, friends and teachers, held her glasses to her face and gazed upwards.
A chill came over the field. Terlouw couldn't tell if it was the drop in temperature or amazement that seemed to freeze the crowd. As the earth absorbed all light, Terlouw savored every second.
“It was cool to experience it with a large majority of the student body,” Terlouw said. “I got to see the people who were completely enthralled by it and then the others who just thought it was a total waste of time.”
Both Helmuth and Terlouw’s days were halted. Their worlds froze as they stared into the sky. This moment wouldn’t escape their memory.
“If nothing else I would’ve gone through even more hype to get to that moment,” Helmuth said. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve made my whole life.”