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Photos: Thousands pack the ISU Quad to watch the solar eclipse

Thousands of students, faculty, and community members gathered on Illinois State University’s Quad on Monday afternoon, as Central Illinois found itself in the path of a near-total solar eclipse for the second time in seven years.

The eclipse reached full totality while tracking along a 115-mile wide path extending through Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. That path included much of Southern Illinois. It peaked around 96% over Normal, between 1:59 p.m. and 2:04 p.m.

The school had thousands of pairs of special eclipse-rated glasses for observers available for free on the Quad, and several student-led organizations were set up sharing information at booths in Schroeder Plaza. 

Students Josie Trainor and Lauren Burton also work for ISU's emergency management team. They were handing out glasses Monday on the Quad.

Trainor said this was a different experience than the last solar eclipse she saw. 

“The last one I was a sophomore in high school,” Trainor said. “Now being at college and seeing how big our campus is, and it’s filled with all the students. It’s really amazing.” 

She recalls watching the 2017 eclipse from the parking lot at her high school with “a small group of people I’ve known my whole life.”

As for the huge crowd on the ISU Quad on Monday: “It’s really cool to see the community come together for something so cool like this.” 

Burton credits the nice weather — over 70 degrees and clear skies — with the high turnout. 

“The weather’s been so bad the previous days” she said. “Having this nice sunny day, everybody’s out on the Quad. This is exactly what I wanted to see.” 

ISU physics faculty member David Marx called the event, and specifically that high turnout, exciting in multiple ways. 

“These astronomical events occur from time to time,” he said, “but it’s really great to see the 15,000 or 16,000 people here on the Quad, coming from all kinds of backgrounds and sharing in this astronomical event.”

“All of our differences seem to go away in these great moments," he said. “I just think it’s wonderful that people are so excited about this.” 

Marx says he let his class out 30 minutes early so they wouldn’t miss the event, but he wasn’t the only one changing their plans to come and see the event. 

ISU student Michael Owoniya said it wasn’t originally his intention to come see the eclipse.

“My plan was to stay in bed all day, but then when I got that phone call about, ‘Hey, there’s an eclipse, everybody’s on the Quad,’ I said you know what, might as well get up, take a shower, and now I’m here.”

Monday marked the last glimpse of a total solar eclipse that the contiguous U.S. will see until August 2044.

Emily Bollinger is a graduate assistant at WGLT, focused on photography, videography and other digital content. They're also a graduate student at Illinois State University's School of Communication.
Erik Dedo is a reporting and audio production intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.