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Local Column

From the editor's desk: Did you have to be there?

How many things do you really have to see in person any more?

I wondered that after the sun above the Daily Chronicle building in DeKalb was totally eclipsed by rain clouds Monday afternoon.

Yes, I went and stared at the sky for a few minutes in the parking lot with some of my coworkers.

I felt kind of silly, until the sun peeked out through a gap in the slate-gray clouds overhead and I saw what looked like a bright crescent moon for about five seconds.

Had this been 1979, the last time a total eclipse of the sun was visible in North America, I’d probably have been bummed out. A few seconds of TV footage or a black-and-white newspaper photo wouldn’t have done the phenomenon justice.

But this being 2017, I went back inside, sat at my desk and watched the total eclipse happen live online at locations around the country, with a live feed supplied by NASA.

I’m sure that if I’d made the six-hour drive to southern Illinois and saw it get dark in the daytime, I’d have more vivid memories of today than I will otherwise.

Likewise, it would probably be more interesting to visit the Sydney Opera House in Australia than to simply let Google Maps take me there. It’d be more thrilling to cruise at 70,000 feet in a U-2 spy plane than to watch it on YouTube.

I’ve personally attended hundreds of sporting events. Although you get a fuller view of the game unfolding when you’re there in person, the picture quality and pause/replay capability of my home entertainment system are about as good as being there. Plus, the concessions are cheaper on the couch.

On one hand, I could worry that this is going to make us into even more of a couch-potato society, but I don’t really fear that. Young people are going to go out and explore the world and live life – I think that’s their nature.

But, should the day come when I’m an old man who hasn’t been able to see everything I'd have liked to in life, I hope we’ve advanced far enough that I can have interesting virtual experiences from the comfort of my home.

I think I'd like to stand at the summit of Mt. Everest as an octogenarian.

• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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