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Many without protective eyewear view eclipse at Norwalk Public Library

By KARLEE STEFFANNI • Updated Aug 22, 2017 at 3:18 PM

The Norwalk Public Library held its viewing party for the solar eclipse Monday afternoon.

Several groups of people were gathered on the front steps to watch the event, but more than half of them didn’t have protective eyewear. 

“Everyone who showed up for the scheduled 1 p.m. viewing party received a pair of glasses,” said Heidi Sutter, director of the Norwalk Public Library. “We also had extra glasses for some of our late arrivals. However, we did run out after distributing 230 pairs of regulation eclipse glasses. Upon us running out; those who did not receive glasses from the library left.

“Prior to the distribution of glasses at promptly 1 p.m. there was a presentation of the safety requirements, safe usage, and the dangers of unprotected eclipse viewing given on the steps of the library. No one at the library accepted, supported, or encouraged our attendees to accept non-approved eye ware from any citizen in attendance.”

Sutter also said people shouldn’t keep their glasses for the next eclipse in 2024 because their protection only lasts about three years.

Dan Brown, of Norwalk, said he came to the event hoping there would be a few extra glasses, but the library had already run out. A few people had regular sunglasses on and others attempted to take photos with cameras or mobile phones.

Ken Svitak, of Norwalk, was prepared for the shortage of protective eyewear. He had purchased welding glass and created his own protective viewing lens, which he happily passed around to everyone without glasses. 

Svitak said he had seen a solar eclipse before “in the 60s.” At the time, he said he was working at a steel mill and he remembered other people looking up at the sky using welding glasses. 

“I couldn’t get glasses, so that’s why I bought this,” Svitak said.

Brown said he was curious as to whether the eclipse glasses were even necessary. He added, “I heard (the sun) is no brighter today than any other day.” 

This topic was a popular one throughout the nation. An article from The Washington Post addresses the issue and suggests the protective eyewear was necessary — especially if you planned on looking directly at the sun.

Sveta Kavali, an ophthalmologist and retina specialist at Saint Louis University, told The Post: “Staring at the sun can cause a condition called solar retinopathy, which leads to a decrease or a distortion of a person's central vision.” 

The article also stated the damage is “typically irreversible.” 

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