As Lou Tomososki and a friend walked home from Marshall High School in Oregon one afternoon in 1962, they gazed up at the sky. For weeks, everyone had been talking about the partial solar eclipse and the teens wanted to witness it. For a few seconds, they looked at the sun as a sliver of the moon slid over its surface.
While watching, he saw flashes of light, much like he would after having a picture taken with a camera with a flashbulb. He had no idea those flickers would lead to permanent damage.
“We both got burned at the same time,” Tomososki told TODAY. “He got the left eye and I got the right eye.”
While Tomososki’s teachers warned him to use a pinhole projector box, which creates a reflection of the eclipse for safe viewing, he didn’t heed the warning. Even today, the 70-year-old Oregon City man struggles to see if he relies only on his right eye.
“We were just doing it for a short time,” he said. “I have a little blind spot in the center of my right eye.”
What Tomososki experienced is called solar retinopathy — damage caused to the retina from looking at the sun. It’s a pinpoint of blindness, often in the middle of the eye.
For his part, Tomososki hopes people learn from his story and protect themselves.
“I am just so concerned that somebody isn’t going to listen,” he said. “I am going to be out in the eclipse, but I am not going to look at the sun at any circumstances, even in the totality.”