Charleston, South Carolina
Beginning of totality: 2:46pm (Eastern)
Duration of totality: 1 minute, 33 seconds
Three seconds before totality, I watched the minnows take flight. The tide was low on Conch Creek, which slithers through the marshlands that separate Mount Pleasant from Sullivan’s Island just north of Charleston and spitting distance from the Atlantic. Below where we stood on the pier, crabs reached for the tops of traps, as if to try to get a better view. Clouds spread apart. A storm to the west stopped flashing. From other piers in the distance came the sounds of people screaming like ghosts.
Charleston’s nickname is Holy City, and throughout time, it’s had lots of reasons to pray and to confess. These marshlands have seen some awful things. In 1989, there was Hugo, the Category 4 hurricane that came ashore on Sullivan’s Island, birds filling the sky in its eye. From the 1600s to the 1800s, some 40% of African slaves brought to North America came through Sullivan’s Island. Holy City has many sins. And yet I couldn’t shake the sense that the eclipse was, at some level, a spiritual event sent by providence to this spot, 2,485 miles from the Oregon coast. It found us in the Southeast at a simmering moment for our country, to send people yawping into the darkness of day, to make the Spanish moss glow as it danced from the arms of live oaks, to set the sun all around us, to remind us that everything can be the opposite of what we believe it to be.