As darkness fell outside the Grand Ole Opry, the band onstage stopped playing. The temperature dropped. Cicadas started chirruping in the trees. Eclipse-watchers who had hidden in the shade to hide from the heat came out for one last look at the sun as dusk fell in midday and everything went dark.
Viewed through the proper protective glasses, everything was black except for a tiny sliver of the sun. Then the tiny sliver disappeared, and everyone took off their glasses and looked at where the sun used to be.
The moon was black and and terrible and rimmed with white fire.
But then, just as suddenly, a passing cloud swallowed the moon, and the crowd groaned as the sky turned dark. By the time the cloud passed, so had the totality. The first sign of a return to normalcy was a flagpole bearing the American flag, which flowed with the faint orange of a sunrise, and soon everything felt back to normal.
"I felt a sense of awe about nature ... the whole totality of the universe," said Lisa Wilbanks, 57, of Louisville, Ky., moments after the eclipse passed, with awe still in her voice.
When the moon began blocking the sun, Wilbanks said, she was glad not just to see the eclipse, but also felt "blessed and really grateful that we have science to tell us these things."