Never mind the rain, Sitkans take to the skies to view eclipse

Fly him to the moon: Sitkan Brant Brantman takes in Monday’s eclipse from the air between Portland and Minneapolis — a trip that was set in motion by listening to the song “Why Does the Sun Shine?” as a child. (KCAW photo/Cindy Edwards)

While millions of Americans went out of their way to travel somewhere to watch Monday’s eclipse for a few minutes, a few people took to the skies to watch it for hours.

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Sitkans Cindy Edwards and Brant Brantman were on a regularly-scheduled flight from Portland to Minneapolis on Monday. Although their vacation to visit friends was planned fairly recently, the journey itself was almost a lifetime in the making.

Their flight left Portland an hour before totality, just as the eclipse started. And it only got better.

“We actually sat in the front seat on the right side of the plane. We were looking south as we flew east, looking right at the eclipse,” Edwards said. “And it was so cute because the flight attendants in the front and the back — we kept giving them our glasses, because we were giving them the play-by-play. So we’d give them the glasses and get up and move, and little by little all the people on the plane who would look up looking interested, and we’re like, C’mon! So the plane was just constantly streaming up to that front seat, putting on our glasses and looking out. Because we had such a long viewing of the eclipse. I couldn’t believe it. It was consistent across the 3-and-a-half hours of the flight. We had the eclipse the whole way.”

Edwards said that even the pilots came back and checked out the eclipse from their front row seats.

That everyone got such an excellent look at the event was much more than coincidence. Edwards said her husband, Brant Brantman, has had plans in the works for well, a long time.

“The trouble started when Brant was a young child and he had an album all about the galaxy. And all of the songs on the album were about the sun and the moon and the stars, and it started a trend he has been following all his life,” Edwards said. “He is so enamored by space. He did the work. He figured out that we’re going to go 520 miles per hour east, and he knew what time it was all going to happen. He was watching videos. He was a nerd.”

Although their flight path did not cross the totality, Edwards and Brantman were pretty close — more than 90-percent. Edwards says there was just a sliver, and it never got completely dark. Yet she witnessed something that Earth-bound viewers can only imagine.

“With just a thin hair, it was light out. But as you looked across the landscape you could watch it getting darker and darker. And you could see way off on the southern side of the plane, you could see dark in the distance,” Edwards said. “It wasn’t a fine line and then pure darkness, but it was definitely dark out there. Okay, they’re probably in totality.”

She says the sky was a palette of blues, like an impressionist painting.

And the question all of us far from the eclipse have for those who went to extraordinary effort to see it: What does it all mean?

KCAW – Did you have a personal spiritual catharsis of any kind watching this?
Edwards – (Laughs) I think it’s one of those moments where you realize how little you are. You know when you were a little kid laying in the field looking up at the stars and you just felt so teeny-weeny? It definitely felt like that.

Music: Why Does the Sun Shine? – Tom Glazer

Warning to parents: This is the actual song that hooked Brant Brantman on space. Keep an eye on your credit card accounts, and be alert for any air travel booked between Dallas and Buffalo in 2024.