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ECLIPSE 2024: What little we saw of it - brought people together for one day

Even under cloudy skies the eclipse created a sense of unity and togetherness that we have been deeply in need of since 2020
YourTV Niagara staff and volunteers, including show host and NOTL Local reporter Mike Balsom, centre -right, remove their solar glasses to experience the totality of the eclipse on a cloudy day.

It may seem that Mother Nature brought out her mean streak Monday afternoon. 

When you consider the full day of sunshine that Niagara was teased with on Sunday, and the appearance of the sun at about 4:30 pm Monday after the totality of the solar eclipse had long moved on from the region, it’s hard to make a different conclusion. 

But it’s important to consider the effect of the celestial phenomenon on those lucky enough to have viewed it. 

Let’s first get the disappointment out of the way. Despite the predictions of the Niagara Regional Police Service, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati and various science professors from Brock and Queen’s University, nowhere near one million people flocked to The Honeymoon City. Estimates released Tuesday put the number closer to 100,000, with a total of 200,000 stretched along the Niagara River corridor.

For most of the day, I was cocooned within the four windowless walls of the YourTV studio in Niagara Falls quarterbacking Cogeco’s live coverage across most of Ontario. Frequent check-ins with our reporter Anthony Luongo on-site at Table Rock on the Niagara Parkway revealed sparse crowds that looked no more fulsome than a normal peak tourism season crowd. 

Was it the grey, overcast weather that kept people away? Perhaps. And yes, the fact that the YourTV broadcast had to pick up a feed from our partners in Cornwall, who were six minutes behind Niagara into totality, was unfortunate. 

But those few moments when the clouds parted just so, allowing the eclipse-watchers in Niagara Falls a brief glimpse of what they came for, were magical. Shouts of joy and happiness, pure awe at the spectacle before them, most experiencing it for the first time, rung out.

I was able to sneak out of the studio during totality once our producers decided to leave the live Cornwall image of the sun up, mixed with ambient crowd noise from Table Rock. 

We gathered outside the YourTV mobile in deep, almost instant mid-day darkness and gazed up at the sky above our McLeod Road building. Like magic, the clouds again parted, and colleagues expressed wonder at the sight of a full black circle surrounded by a ring of fire above us. 

A row of backyards from a block over abuts the YourTV parking lot. Families had obviously gathered outside there to view the eclipse. Their excited voices blended in with ours when, like some kind of miracle, our view of the totality continued for about 50 seconds. 

It was then that the words of one of our pre-recorded guests, Leigh Paulseth of Toronto Metropolitan University, struck me. She had said that the wonder of an eclipse is its ability to unite people from all over to experience the same beauty high above us.

Maybe a million people didn’t flood into the region that day. And maybe we didn’t get a chance to take in an extended view of the total eclipse. 

But there we were, with our ISO 12312-2 solar filter glasses, hearing the nearby voices of others marvelling at this wondrous evidence of the vast universe upon us.  

We were indeed united, connected together in the shared experience with each other alongside total strangers. And after the separation that we all experienced over an excruciatingly extended period not too long ago, it felt like a miracle. 

Mike Balsom

About the Author: Mike Balsom

With a background in radio and television, Mike Balsom has been covering news and events across the Niagara Region for more than 35 years
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