hen a total solar eclipse crosses the United States on Monday, it will have been 38 years, five months, and 27 days since the last time a total solar eclipse was visible on the continent — February 26, 1979.
It was a strange, unsettled, in-between time in American history.
U.S. troops had pulled out of Vietnam earlier in the decade, and a president had resigned amid a shocking scandal. America’s largest city, New York, had narrowly skated past bankruptcy. The Bronx was burning, and crime was near an all-time high. An ongoing fuel crisis had the economy teetering, and the national mood was low enough that just five months later, President Jimmy Carter would give his infamous “malaise” speech.
Abroad, Russian troops were months away from invading Afghanistan — before a group of U.S.-backed Mujahideen (including Osama Bin-Laden) would eventually repel them. The U.S.-backed monarch had fled Iran, and Ayatollah Khomeini had returned from exile. Those events would precipitate the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis later that year, which in turn would help change the course of American history as the sometimes-feckless Carter era gave way to austere, culturally conservative Reaganism.
ABC News correspondent Frank Reynolds took to the air that last eclipse morning to give Americans the news of the moon’s shadow passing over a cloudy Pacific Northwest. His report was well-informed, engaging, and offered most Americans their only shot at seeing the celestial event.
It is the last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent during this century. And as I said, not until August 21, 2017, will another eclipse be visible from America. That’s 38 years from now. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world at peace. At ABC News, of course, we’ll bring you a full report on that eclipse, 38 years from now.