“It was pretty magical,” Nicole Edge said of Monday’s total eclipse.

Edge traveled from Savannah, Georgia, and was just one of hundreds of travelers from all over the United States making their way to Orangeburg to watch daylight disappear in front of their eyes.

Many eclipse chasers, families and even their pets found themselves in the open spaces at Edisto Memorial Gardens to view the phenomenon.

As the afternoon sun began to dim, the crowd quickly began putting on their eclipse glasses to watch as the last shining crescent from the sun inched closer to darkness.

Children began cheering, “Go moon, go!” and “Cover the sun!”

The eclipse reached totality at 2:43 p.m., blocking out the sun and exposing the bright corona. About two minutes later, the sun began to emerge from behind the moon.

“The moment when it got dark and everybody started cheering, that was really cool,” Randa Mauldin said.

Mauldin’s family traveled from New Jersey.

“It was really pretty,” 12-year old daughter Ellie Mauldin said.

The Schoening family, who came up from Jacksonville, Florida, said it was “better than Disney fireworks any day.”

They also used a rig fashioned out of a cardboard box and binoculars to view the eclipse shining on the box.

Tom Hughes and his family traveled from New Hampshire and were still in awe moments after the eclipse.

“It was spectacular,” Hughes said. “Feels like once in a lifetime.”

His son, 9-year-old Tommy Hughes said, “It was awesome!”

At the moment the sun fully went away, mom Joia Hughes laughed saying her first thought was, “I hope the sun never shuts its lights off on us.”

12-year old Grace Hughes described it looking like a movie prop.

“It looked like a ring light -- those things that they use for lighting in the movies," she said.

Lilian Rivera and Alfonso Castro traveled eight hours from Miami.

“My legs were shaking,” Castro said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Rivera said she was moved to tears.

“It was so beautiful,” she said.

Rivera had seen an eclipse as a child in Mexico but said she was too young to fully take it in.

They were worried at first because of a large rain cloud that seemed as if it would end up ruining the entire experience.

The two had originally planned on traveling to Charleston but changed their minds because of weather forecasts.

Minutes before the eclipse's predicted time, however, the cloud moved out of the way.

Coming from Mobile, Alabama, Brenda Beverly said she simply had to have totality.

In Alabama, Beverly said they were projected to have just 80 percent of totality.

“The difference between 98 and 100 would’ve been night and day,” she said. “We had to have totality.”

Beverly watched the eclipse with her mother Barbara Beverly who came from Bluffton.

At 78, Beverly said she had seen partial eclipses but for totality, this was the “first time in my life.”

“It was very emotional,” she said.

Brenda Beverly said, “I was laughing and crying at the same time.”

“I was speechless,” she said. “I don’t have words to describe it.”

Beverly said her eyes were playing tricks on her at one point.

“For a moment, I didn’t have my distance correction in,” she said. “During that time, it actually had like, the evil eye shape in the Lord of the Rings.”

She described the eclipse as having a “weird cat-eye shape.”

“Ancient people who didn’t understand it would’ve been really freaked out,” Beverly said.

“I was screaming,” 8-year old Althea Nibert said.

Their family traveled seven hours from Florida to reach Orangeburg.

Her father, Eric Nibert said it was “worth every mile and worth every penny.”

Nibert added that he just felt chills experiencing it.

“It was a magical moment,” he said.

“When it was getting dark, it was way more noticeable than I thought it would be,” Ann Hartzell said. “What an amazing thing.”

Hartzell also came from Savannah and brought along her three dogs, Deja, Aiko and Mel.

She had seen the 1979 eclipse but said, “No matter what you do it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

As it got completely dark, Hartzell said planets and stars started to pop out.

Kirk Mceachern and his daughter Sophie Mceachern from Fernandina Beach, Florida, noticed this as well.

“We could see Venus,” Kirk Mceachern said.

He described the sun's corona looking like it had dust all around it and it showed the power of the sun.

“The brightness of it up until the very last minute shows just how powerful the sun is,” Mceachern said. “It had to be totally covered before the light went away.”

“That was just a visual treat,” he added.

Sophie Mceachern said, “That was probably the coolest thing I’ve seen so far.”

Clayton Milligan said, “It was definitely worth the drive from Valdosta (Georgia).”

Milligan said he was surprised with how dark it got.

“It felt like nighttime,” Doris Milligan said. “We could hear the frogs.”

The Milligans said they were also happy with the kindness of the Orangeburg community.

“We’ve been very impressed with the hospitality,” Clayton Milligan said.

He added that people were showing them where to go and places to park.

Contact the writer: jmack@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

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T&D Staff Writer

John Mack is a 2016 graduate of Claflin University. He is an Orangeburg native.

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