[image-1]The heavy cloud cover broke and the hundreds lined along the Battery got their peek at the solar eclipse as it neared totality. A mixture of cheers and gasps rippled through the crowd as the chanting of a handful of protesters stood at the monument dedicated to the “Confederate Defenders of Charleston.” The temperature dropped as the skies shifted into darkness and a storm began to rattle to the west. It was 2:45 p.m., but for a brief minute and a half nightfall had arrived.
Architectural and interior photographer Mark Schwenk travelled from Virginia to see the eclipse. In the past, he has sailed in and out of Charleston port. When he learned that the Holy City would be the final major location from which to view the eclipse in its totality, he knew that Charleston was where he would find himself for the event. He planned for six months leading up to Monday’s eclipse.
“This is a very cool experience, just to see an eclipse. I haven’t seen one since I was a child. Then to do it in a town I really love, I love coming here,” Schwenk said as he stood next to his camera gear in White Point Gardens.
[image-2] On the other side of the park, seated in a camping chair on the Upper Battery was Herb Planchock, who travelled to Charleston from Port St. Lucie, Fla. Reclining in his chair, Planchock pulled down the visor on his modified welding helmet. After his time in the Marines, Planchock worked in construction and did his fair share of welding, he said. But the helmet he wore to view the eclipse won’t be making its way to the shop. Planchock says it was a special purchase just for the eclipse, and after today it will be added to the shelves of souvenirs back in his home Port St. Lucie home.
“We won’t have a chance to see anything like this for another 380 years,” he said. “I figured I’d better get my shot at it.”
As the midday sun became almost completely hidden behind the moon, the nearby protesters gathered among the families seated on the Confederate memorial at the edge of White Point Gardens. For most of their time there, the seven protesters stood silently holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter,” “The Confederate Defenders of Charleston statue was erected during the height of Jim Crow,” and “Whose heritage is preserved here? Whose legacy is law?”
[image-3] After the sun began to peek back around, the protesters disbanded without incident. The crowds who had gathered to view the eclipse slowly began to make their way from the park, as well.
Among those lingering just for a moment along the edge of the Battery was Kendall Waters, a look of excitement still registered on her face. She made the trip to Charleston from Greensboro, N.C. to see the eclipse. And in her opinion, it did not disappoint.
“It was really cool. I didn’t realize how dark it would get,” she said. “It was like night.”