Cleveland provided the perfect setting to witness the solar eclipse

The best outfit of the day was worn by a man dressed in an astronaut jumpsuit done up in Cleveland Browns orange colors, with the word “Brownstronaut” written across the back.

The best animal of the day was a perfect bald eagle, roosting high in his enclosure, taking in the morning sunlight and warmth, unaware that the source of that light would soon be obscured before the afternoon ended.

The best quote of the day came from my 21-year-old daughter Paloma, as we gathered with thousands of others on the lawn of the Great Lakes Science Center, when she turned to me and said, simply, “Thank you.” (She also said, “This was so worth missing class for,” though that one moved me less.)

Paloma and I were just two of the many people who flocked to northeastern Ohio for the total eclipse of the sun, which began at 1:59 PM EDT and reached totality at 3:13 PM EDT.

“Look at ‘er go,” called out one woman in the crowd as the moon steadily took bigger bites out of the sun.

“I literally have a tear,” said someone else.

A DJ outside of Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar was playing thumping hip-hop music up until the moment of totality, when he switched to a gentle cover of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” Cleveland Browns Stadium, hard up against the Science Center lawn, was plunged into darkness. Titan, a four-year-old miniature poodle, yapped in the quiet and the gloaming.

“He does this when he wants people in a crowd to notice him,” said Ashwani Sharma, 31, a software engineer for Chipotle, as he pulled Titan close.

Sharma and his friend, Simran Pripsingh, 31, a software engineer for JPMorgan Chase & Co., were working remotely in a coffee shop in Columbus, Ohio this morning, which was outside of the path of totality, and on a whim, drove 142 miles northeast to take in the full show.

“We just kind of decided it was worth the 90-minute drive to see it all,” said Pripsingh.

It was worth that and much more. To take in an eclipse is to understand why the ancients were terrified and thrilled and mystified and awestruck as the great cosmic choreography played out, and one of life’s certainties—that the sun would rise in the morning and set in the evening and otherwise remain in the sky throughout that long procession—came undone. It’s the deep blackness of the moon that gives the eclipse its power to frighten and to elicit applause and cheers even in a 21st-century crowd, as the first flash of sunlight reappeared.

“It’s a reminder that there is so much more to life than meets the eye,” said Lolita Strong, 57, an Uber driver who planned to pull over wherever she was when totality arrived. “When things like this happen, you get a chance to think about the sun and the moon and how man could not have made that.”

That sentiment was echoed by a street preacher who shouted into a microphone after the eclipse that it was a spectacle that was imagined by God, created for us by God. And while astronomy and faith don’t often embrace, they do, on the occasion of a total solar eclipse, at least shake hands. The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, but also 400 times closer to us, meaning the two bodies appear to be the same size in the sky. It’s that sweet synchrony that makes the eclipse the exquisite phenomenon it is.

One can believe in what one will—astronomy, religion, the mere coincidence of the cosmic clockworks. A solar eclipse brings all of them rushing forward.

My Paloma will be a middle-aged woman when the next eclipse touches the continental U.S., in 2044. I would like to think I’ll be a grandfather. The moon and the sun will be much as they are and much as they’ve been for more than four billion years—still there, still shining, still doing their dance.