Small moments reporters found on a big day for Maine

The total solar eclipse that passed through western and northern Maine on Monday was something for the ages: a celestial event that may only come once or twice in someone’s life. 

It awed people from Maine. It also drew many others from outside the state, thanks in part to a lucky stretch of weather that delivered perfect viewing conditions.

Reporters from the Bangor Daily News were scattered throughout the path of totality during the eclipse. They captured the magic of that short window when the moon blocked out the sun. 

But they also caught many smaller moments, as well. Here are some of them:

Bangor Daily News photo/Troy R. Bennett
TESTING — Ron Retamales of New Jersey tests the safety filter on his camera while getting ready to take pictures of the total solar eclipse in Greenville on Monday. Retamales said he had to be at work in Pennsylvania first thing in the morning on Tuesday.

Troy R. Bennett, Greenville

Lan Bui of Philadelphia held an expensive solar filter made for a telescope up to the sky on Greenville’s waterfront Monday afternoon so Sharon Duffield of Falmouth could get cell phone photos of the unfolding solar eclipse. 

A little further up the snow-covered wooden boardwalk, Bui’s husband, Ted Merriman shoveled out spots for people to set up their cameras and telescopes.

It was part of an instant, temporary community which sprang up there on Monday morning. People from all over the country shared photo tips, snacks and viewing advice.

“The best part of the eclipse is the people I’ve met,” Duffield said. “It’s a real community, and I love that feeling.”

Bangor Daily News photo/Troy R. Bennett
ECLIPSE HEADWEAR — Wearing a fanciful tinfoil hat, Esteban Miguel of Miami points his camera at the sun during the opening minutes of the total solar eclipse on Monday in Greenville. “It’s to keep out the death rays or whatever else might be trying to get to my brain,” Miguel jokingly said of his headwear.

Melissa Lizotte, Houlton

Lawrence and Leanne Lechett were among the hundreds gathered at Houlton’s Riverside Park, anxiously awaiting the experience of totality.

The couple traveled from Alaska, first flying into New York and then making the over 8-hour trip to Houlton, a town that they never visited before. Leanne had witnessed the 2017 partial eclipse in Oregon and knew how to add a special lens to her camera to view the latest phenomenon.

“We wanted to visit Maine, so a solar eclipse seemed like the best way,” Leanne Lechett said.

Coming to Houlton for the first time became a common theme among eclipse spectators Monday. Bill and Susan Rahn of Delaware drove from their vacation home in Belfast with Susan’s sister Carol Beck, Carol’s husband Streph Treadway, both of Boston, and friend Jake Egging of Oregon.

“This seemed like the place to be,” Rahn said. “They really made a festival of it.”

Bangor Daily News photo/Troy R. Bennett
SUN FILTER — Lan Bui of Philadelphia, right, lends Sharon Duffield of Falmouth a sun filter so she can take a photo of the solar eclipse in Greenville on Monday.

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli, Houlton

Felix Rivera brought his family and friends from Boston to experience the total solar eclipse in the Houlton Walmart parking lot.

Next Monday, he is leaving for Oahu, Hawaii for a new job with Amazon, and he thought this would be a perfect thing for the family to experience before he left.

“It will be the last time we will be together in snow,” he said. “I guess you could say the planets lined up for us.”

Along with his wife, daughter, mother, two bull mastiffs and a family friend, was his Army buddy, John Farrell. Their first assignment together was back in 1999 at Fort Bragg where Rivera’s son is now stationed.

As totality neared, Rivera bought a colander and white poster board from Walmart so everyone could see the moon’s shadow on the board. It created a circle of many mini images of the eclipse. 

And Farrell gave an ongoing countdown. 

With seven minutes and 20 seconds left, the light had almost faded and everyone in the Rivera group was stunned. 

Family friend Johanna Lopez played “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and everyone grew silent hugging each other in the twilight of the moon. 

Chris Bouchard, Limestone

Greg Moakley drove all the way up from Peabody, Massachusetts to Limestone to see the eclipse at Loring Air Force Base. He’d read in the newspaper about the work that Green4Maine was doing to redevelop the area, and felt that the eclipse gave him a great opportunity to see this work while also experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“For me, it was the Air Force base, but [the eclipse] is a good reason to get up here,” he said. “It drew me up. I said ‘Let’s go,’ because it’s the eclipse; it was a twofer.”

Moakley said he made the six-hour ride up to see what was happening at Loring, and arrived the day before. 

“I’ll probably head back tonight, but it’s great seeing this massive property,” he said. “It’s amazing just to be able to walk in these hangars that used to be classified, and to see how it’s turning out with the new development.”

Coming from Massachusetts, Moakley said he was expecting the worst in terms of weather, but was pleasantly surprised.

“I was expecting six feet of snow,” he said. “I was surprised it’s so warm. I thought it was gonna be 20 degrees. I even brought a shovel with me.”

He said he would consider making the trip up to Limestone again in the future, especially if there were more events at Loring.

“It’s beautiful up here,” he said. “Maybe on the way home I’ll grab some potatoes.”

Valerie Royzman, Millinocket

Charlie Sawyer’s first memory is gazing out the window of his home in Brewer to see the total solar eclipse in July 1963.

He was two and a half years old then, and just tall enough to rest his arms on the windowsill. Sawyer tried to peek through the curtains as the sky grew dark, even though his mother, who held his little sister and wrangled four other kids, tried to keep him away. She wanted to keep the children from hurting their eyes. 

The moment, which was peculiar to small Sawyer, sparked his interest in astronomy, and as a child he sketched the sky on paper and made his own star maps.

Sawyer, who started Downeast Amateur Astronomers in 1997, was set up with a few telescopes at Veterans Memorial Park in Millinocket on Monday. He used one to photograph the eclipse. 

People buzzed around him, stopping to peer inside the devices and pick his brain about the rare celestial experience. Sawyer helped reassure one woman who wondered whether her eclipse glasses were safe. He used cardboard cutouts to mimic how the moon will travel through its orbit as it passes in front of the sun during the partial and total eclipse.

Today, more than 60 years since his first eclipse, Sawyer will get to fully take in the magic. 

“It’s a full circle moment,” he said.

Paula Brewer, Presque Isle

A handful of people were assembled at 1 p.m. at Presque Isle’s General Aviation Terminal as several small jets landed.

Among the eclipse travelers were two couples from Massachusetts: Adam and Anne Broun of Lexington, and Mark and Liz Hanson of Hingham.

The two men are pilots for Patient Air Lift Services Skyhope, a service which provides free medical flights for patients. Both are familiar with the Presque Isle runways. That, plus the promise of good weather, lured the couples to Aroostook County.

Broun has flown with Skyhope for 11 years and Hanson for 12, and between them they come to Presque Isle about every other week, Broun said.

The Hansons viewed the last eclipse at the other end of the country.

“We went to Wyoming last time,” Mark Hanson said. “This was convenient compared to going to Wyoming.”

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