The total eclipse in Nashville was as fleeting as a country song


The honky-tonk town buzzes with people. The crowd, nearly 500,000 strangers, are all in Nashville to experience the same moment: the solar eclipse in totality.

Why travel to experience something that would last shorter than a country tune?

"We just moved from California to East Lansing. I work in politics, and no, I'm not on the side of what's happening in the White House," a guy tells me with a smile as we're standing in line to taste the hot chicken Nashville is known for.

"We were curious about Nashville, and with the eclipse being in full totality we thought, 'Why not experience that as well?'" his wife adds. 

The stories of why people are here vary as much as the crowd. One man happens to be in town to sell whiskey to a bar. It's a regular business road trip, and he always stays an extra day in Nashville. A couple from Connecticut hanging out in a bar are hyped for the big event because they enjoy the science behind it.

"We're exploring, but honestly don't have to experience anything other than the eclipse," says the wife as her husband nods in agreement. "We only came to Nashville because of full totality," he chimes in. Soon, our conversation moves to explaining the science behind the event -- a common topic among the crowd.

As the hour comes closer, strangers gather and stand together, shoulder to shoulder. They are energized just talking about the eclipse.

It takes seven years for the moon and the sun to cross, and only certain parts of the country experience it in totality. Nashville is one. The moon covers the sun so its corona can be seen. Day turns into darkness, and the moon casts a shadow on Earth.

The last time the U.S. witnessed a total solar eclipse was almost 40 years ago; it's been 99 years since a total solar eclipse crossed the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Since Saturday, not a single cloud has entered the sky. But with an hour until totality, a few smaller clouds have worked their way toward the sun. As the moment draws close, the eclipse is suddenly consumed by cloud cover. On the ground, uncertainty and hope dance among the crowd.

As we wait and watch the cloud cover, day turns to night with brief flashes breaking through, allowing for a glimpse of the moon completely covering the sun for a few fleeting moments before going back under clouds. The darkness feels like a horrible storm, bats fly through the air and streetlights flicker on.

Stunned, I set my glasses down and look around. Nightfall has started and stopped, ending in sunshine. Totality is over, and it was mostly missed by cloud cover — just like a country song where the love story doesn’t end cleanly.