Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Saluki softball huddles together before facing the California Golden Bears in the first round of the NCAA Regional May 17, 2024 at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo provided by Saluki Athletics
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Eclipse brings alumni, family and friends together 

Western+Kentucky+University+Alumni%2C+Kasey+York+and+Scottie+Sheriff+look+at+a+picture+of+the+sun+they+had+taken+April+8%2C+2024+at+Saluki+Stadium+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.%0A%40libbyphelpsphotography%0A
Libby Phelps
Western Kentucky University Alumni, Kasey York and Scottie Sheriff look at a picture of the sun they had taken April 8, 2024 at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Illinois. @libbyphelpsphotography

The eclipse that passed over Carbondale on Monday was truly a family event. Groups from all over the country made their way to Saluki Stadium to watch the moon cover the sun. 

“It brought people to southern Illinois, to Carbondale and to this campus,” said Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. “I love that. First, because everybody had a great time and treated each other kindly. Second, because it brings tourism to our state and to this area, and third I think there are going to be a lot of people who after they leave decide ‘Hey, I’d like to apply and come to a school like this.’”

Mia Ginae Watkins traveled nearly 2,000 miles for the event. A resident of Los Angeles, she planned the trip with her parents and godsister, who all live in St. Louis.

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“I figured it would be a great road trip and I haven’t been to Illinois in quite some time so I thought it would be a cool family trip to do,” she said. 

She described the energy in Carbondale as “electrifying.”

“There’s a lot of stuff going on…but this is exciting. I’ve never been to the campus, so this has been pretty awesome,” she said. 

SIU Chancellor Austin Lane said the event felt “like a homecoming.” 

“It’s not only brought a sense of community here locally, it’s brought people into our community to really see what it means to be a Saluki, see our beautiful campus and region, it’s great all around,” Lane said.

Lane spent the 2017 eclipse in Texas, but he said he wished he had spent it here. 

“We have the better view,” he said. “You’re at the crossroads. Texas was a little different, so I’m so glad to be here in 2024 to see it.” 

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For four minutes, the sky grew dark, and the crowd of tens of thousands of people fell to a standstill. 

“That was awe inspiring. It was pretty cool,” said Bob Strohbehn of central Iowa. He came to the event with Erin Strohbehn, who was visiting from St. Louis.

“We had both gone to the [2017 eclipse]…We watched it in southern Missouri, south of St. Louis, and it was two minutes [long],” Bob Strohbehn said. “This one was four minutes. It was long enough that we could really see all of the solar flares and the things that were happening. [It] was pretty cool.” 

The presence of NASA at the event is what caught their interest. Erin Strohbehn said they came “because NASA was coming here and because it seemed like they [Carbondale] had a pretty good setup of things and was in the centerline of totality.” 

It was a great bonding experience for local families as well. Kristin Truitt spent the 2017 eclipse with her daughter Kylie, and they relived that moment on Monday.

“For the first one, she [Kylie] was tiny so she might not remember it, so this time she’s going to be able to see it,” Kristin Truitt said. 

Kylie Truitt said she was most excited to see “the diamond ring.” 

Josh Taylor poses with his child Atticus Taylor and partner Miriam Gómez-Elegido during the 2024 solar eclipse viewing after driving from Chicago April 8, 2024 at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Illinois. @libbyphelpsphotography

The sense of camaraderie wasn’t just present in familial form. Many friends gathered together to experience the once-in-a-lifetime event. 

Among the visitors were Sara Martens of Omaha, Nebraska, and Carolee Cronin of Woodbine, Iowa. The women met when they were in the eighth grade and, now in their 60s, decided to visit Carbondale for the eclipse. Joined by Kathy Wischow of Omaha, Nebraska, whom they met through mutual friends, they embarked on a “girls trip” to southern Illinois, donning matching t-shirts for the event. The shirts said “This totality rocks!”

“As we were driving here, we talked about [how] you could just sit in a field somewhere, but it lacks the community, it lacks the information that we’ve been getting and it just doesn’t feel like it’d be as much fun,” Martens said. 

This was the group’s first time in the city.

“I’ve never been to Carbondale before,” she said. “It looks lovely and everybody’s been super friendly and hospitable, and [they’ve] put on a great event.” 

Wischow said the energy was “upbeat” and “fun.” She also said she thought the science presented was awesome.

Cronin said, “It’s one of those moments to just pause and recognize the greater universe and everything that happens that we can just so often take for granted on the day-to-day basis, of all the magical things that happen.”

She also said it felt “awesome” to be with her friends.

“It’s going to be a very special memory,” she said.

A limited number of tickets were free for SIU students. Abby Zerrusen and Anijah King said they were thrilled to be in the stadium, as they were not able to experience the eclipse back in 2017.

“It’s exciting,” Zerrusen said. “I don’t know what to expect. I haven’t seen it before.” 

King said, “I think it’s also exciting since my first time [seeing it] was in a classroom.” 

SIU freshman Justyce Petty was able to experience the eclipse seven years ago in her hometown, but it did not prepare her for the breathtaking sight.


Kristen, Joanna, and Alex Leffelman (left to right) look up while the moon crosses over the sun during the 2024 solar eclipse on the Saluki Stadium grass hill on April 8, 2024 in Carbondale, Ill. @libbyphelpsphotography
(Libby Phelps )

“I saw the [2017] eclipse, but I didn’t really remember it that well and that one was only, I think, a partial, so this one was definitely a lot cooler,” she said. “I just thought it was really cool. I wasn’t really expecting it to be as cool as it was.”

The event also brought alumni back to campus. Dan Mackoway, class of 1977 sat outside of the Banterra Center with Kathie Falker, class of 1978.

“I love being back,” Mackoway said. “I live up in New York state, so getting back here is always great. The last time I was here was for the other eclipse.”

They both said their years at SIU were the best time of their lives.

Lane said “Saluki energy” was “all over the place.”

“We’ve got people excited. They’ve got their little ones here, we’ve got some older folks here. It’s just a great family environment, very college environment,” he said.

He said the audience should appreciate the rarity of the event.

“I hope they take away how important and how unique it is to be able to [have] two occasions [for] something like this [to] happen. That doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. So that’s how special the university is…and it’s really great for all of our campus community.”

Pritzker made a similar statement.

“In the path of totality, you can’t be in a better place,” he said. “And I have to say, among the students, faculty, visitors, everybody having a great time enjoying themselves, and we got to witness something that just doesn’t happen very often. [It was] my very first time. I was glad to be here at SIUC.”

While totality was short, the energy in the stadium was contagious. The 2024 eclipse is bound to become a memory that will stick with the community forever.

 

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