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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Boston chapter.

On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse passed over the United States, including the northern parts of New England. This once-in-a-lifetime event is something I was lucky enough to witness in Groveton, New Hampshire, and something that has profoundly impacted me. It brought so many things into perspective, and I have not stopped thinking about the experience.

My dad and I began the three-hour trip bright and early at 6:30 a.m. in order to get a good spot for viewing. Adding in a pit stop for breakfast in Conway, NH and at a grocery store for some extra snacks for the day, the ride up through New Hampshire was beautiful. We traveled through the White Mountains and had picturesque scenes through our car windows. We arrived in the small town of Groveton at around 10:30 a.m. After driving through downtown scoping things out, we hunkered down in our spot for the day — an Ocean State Job Lot parking lot! The staff at the store there made the experience so lovely. An employee was kind enough to come out and shut off the parking lot lights in order to enhance our viewing experience. They let us use the bathrooms with no charge, park for free, and overall were wonderful hosts. It proved to be a popular location for viewing, and the feeling of camaraderie in the air only added to the experience.

People set up tailgating tents, were playing cornhole, drawing in chalk all over the parking lot. There was a festive atmosphere, one of a block party or the feeling you get before a concert, except multiplied, because what we all had in common was not where we were from or who we like to listen to but the simple fact that we are human, living on this earth together. People shared food and eclipse glasses, chatted about everything and nothing with complete strangers of all ages, from all different backgrounds. I feel that we typically only see this type of kinship with one another after great tragedies, i.e. how people opened their doors to those stranded by grounded flights following 9/11. But we don’t need tragedy in order to come together or to open our doors. Nor, I believe, do we need great celestial events like solar eclipses, either. We exist together in the in between, and our kindnesses should need no reason to be shown.

People from all over the country, even all over the world, came together that day to experience what is not only rare not just here on Earth, but in our entire universe. We are at such a precise place in the universe to view our moon fully eclipsing the sun — how lucky we are! That is a theme that came to me throughout the day, that of luck or rather serendipity. Not only are we at such a point in time where we get to experience eclipses, but we understand the science behind them as well. We’re able to predict the time and place they will be, are able to safely view them through eclipse glasses (even though they may look goofy!). How scary it must’ve been before this science was not known, to have the world go dark like that! I feel we often take the knowledge we have for granted, or to think of it as a given that has always been around. But great efforts were put into the fountain of knowledge we base our lives on, and this is something to be grateful for.

As time went on that day, the anticipation in the air was high. The eclipse began at approximately 2:16 p.m., with the moon slowly starting to take bites out of the sun. I was so excited I felt almost nauseous, as the moment we had all been waiting for was so soon to arrive. It all started happening quicker than I expected, as the adrenaline of it all wore the day away. The whole experience was unlike anything I have ever known. As totality, which was at around 3:29 p.m., approached, the lighting began to grow unusual, almost muted in tone as everything around us grew dark during midday. Shadows became sharper until nearly every detail was reflected. The temperature dropped rapidly, forcing me to put my sweatshirt back on even though I had been pleasantly warm moments before.

I have seen the most high-quality pictures and videos of total solar eclipses, read books and articles on the phenomena, and yet nothing could have possibly prepared me for the feeling you get witnessing it in person. As the sun gradually shrunk from our view through the glasses in those last moments before totality, people started exclaiming and shouting out. I did too, almost involuntarily as you can’t help but gasp at the sight. Nothing could have prepared me for the moment when I took my glasses off and gazed up at the sky as the moon covered the sun. The brilliant white of the corona, the planets that suddenly appeared, and just the feeling — of being a part of something so much bigger than yourself.

I understood in an instant why so many people — aptly named “eclipse chasers” — spend their entire lives following eclipses around the globe. The feeling you get when witnessing totality is worth any amount of inconvenience, expense, or distance. While it lasted for only one minute and 34 seconds, it was life-changing. When I typically think of the vastness of the universe, I get anxious and overwhelmed, my mind unable to comprehend how so much can exist. Seeing the moon gradually cover the sun, something shifted for me. The universe didn’t change size that day, but my understanding of our place in it all did. We are part of something so much bigger than ourselves, just by virtue of existing. The fact that our planet is in the most precise place to be able to nurture life is incredible.

The brevity of life became so much clearer as well. Life, just like this eclipse, goes so fast. The only way to make sure we make the most of it is to experience it fully, being in the moment as much as possible. I’m so glad I didn’t have my phone on me during totality, that I was able to be fully present and taking it in with all of my senses. The temperature around me, the smell of fresh air, the sounds of people in awe, how my neck craned to get it all in. We need more moments of total immersion like this.

This experience is something I will always be grateful for. It wasn’t a perfect day by any means — I had a migraine and the traffic home was a nightmare. But if you asked if I would do it all again, the answer is unequivocally yes. It was all worth it. I hope that is what I can say about my life looking back as well. I learned that life is a lot like eclipses: rare, fleeting, and best experienced in totality.

Caroline Breen

U Mass Boston '25

Caroline Breen is a writer with the UMass Boston chapter of Her Campus. She is currently a fourth-year psychology student with an interest in development. Outside of school, Caroline is an avid reader and loves Taylor Swift. She is passionate about women's rights and hopes to make a difference in her community.