Moments of Stillness: Reflections on the Eclipse and Urban Connection

The eclipse facilitated a profound moment of mutual connection for New Yorkers. Can we find this unity elsewhere?

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There was a moment on that Monday afternoon when the whole city seemed to take a breath. For the whole day, an unusual tension hung in the air—a shared anticipation of what was to come. At Stuyvesant, students drifted through classes with distracted detachment. Then, about 15 minutes into 10th period, there began a sudden exodus. Students spilled from the school like long tendrils extending out into the surrounding streets. Some chatted excitedly while others rushed anxiously ahead, but when the sky darkened, they all stopped and watched. For 20 minutes, New Yorkers of all stripes and colors united in observation. The city paused and let out a sigh. Then, after a few moments, the sky brightened, people went on their way, and the pulse of the city surged back to life. 

Heading into the day, I didn't hold particularly high expectations. My concerns about my mounting pile of homework weighed heavily on my mind, and I was content to merely go through the motions of the day. As the eclipse began, I debated simply going home. I left the building with thousands of other students for the darkening city and shouldered my way through the crowd. Yet, when I took a moment to look up, I was struck with awe at the beauty of the eclipse. Students all around me looked upwards at the waning sun and the silvery sky, and I was sure that everyone was experiencing the same feeling as me. For the rest of the day, the city seemed to smile. It was like a weight had been lifted from the collective psyche of New York. 

The shared experience of watching the eclipse left a profound impact on my view of what it meant to be a New Yorker, prompting me to question whether it was the celestial event itself that was remarkable or the solidarity it fostered among us. For those precious minutes, the entire city seemed to be together in a way that I had never seen before. In the park where I watched the eclipse, Stuyvesant students and faculty alike socialized. For one hour on that warm afternoon, everyone was able to live in the moment—the worries of a city eight million strong melting away like chalk from the pavement in a summer rain shower.

I believe that these feelings of solidarity arise when we are reminded of our shared humanity. Whether that be through small, fleeting interactions or a larger mutual experience, the capacity to share these connections is what makes us human. Even something as seemingly insignificant as holding the door open for someone or sharing your umbrella on a rainy day can momentarily bring us together. As city dwellers, we especially have a tendency to alienate others and sink into a preoccupation with our own problems and worries. Since we are exposed to so much on a daily basis, we become desensitized and jaded about what happens around us. However, in moments of solidarity, the veil is lifted, and we can have a moment of genuine connection. Back during the pandemic, every night at 7:00 p.m., New Yorkers would open their apartment windows and bang pots and pans together to show support for healthcare workers. Even though we were complete strangers, we were united by that concord of church bells echoing throughout the city. For those minutes, the distance separating us between the high rises seemed insignificant. 

By finding beauty in the commonplace by simply enjoying a moment together, we can escape from the confines of monotony. Taking a break can ground us and allow us to appreciate the mundane that so often goes unnoticed. When we are consumed by our fast-paced nature, we lose sight of where the joy of life really is—in the small, everyday occurrences, not in the big picture. In modern city life, we sorely lack social connection. The eclipse was undoubtedly a rare and extraordinary occurrence, but it shouldn’t take such an awe-inspiring phenomenon for us to come together for just a moment. Especially in New York City, collective pauses are sometimes necessary to remind us of our shared humanity. In a perpetually fast-paced environment, moments of stillness—even fleeting ones—are a much-needed reprieve.