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After Pope Benedict XVI held Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan this morning, he took a ride uptown in his Mercedes Popemobile to greet New Yorkers and visitors that had come out to see him.
My crew and I headed to the Upper East Side of Manhattan pretty early in the morning, trying to beat the crowds and ensure we got a good spot to film the procession once it started moving north.
Most of the surrounding streets were already closed to traffic, and the amount of police and security was surprising. I was stopped several times on my way to our location, despite the big press pass hanging around my neck.
Several large groups were already there, setting up their giant banners, chatting, scouting out good viewing spots and securing them with folding chairs, ready to camp out for three or four hours. Many of them had traveled from as far as California and Arizona, just to catch a glimpse of the Pope for a few seconds.
Two or three organized Church groups were there with guitars and drums, and sang and danced for the entire period of time they waited.
Once we had found our spot, we also prepared to wait. We chatted with those around us, listening to their stories, asking them why they had come out today amongst this crush of humanity.
Most were there just out of curiosity, to see the Pope – or to see the Popemobile. A couple just happened to pass by and notice the swarm of people headed to 5th Avenue. Several others were there to pay their respects to someone they look up to as their religious leader and father.
As time passed, the group surrounding us became larger and larger, until spectators lined the avenue up to ten people deep. Others, who live along 5th Avenue, just popped their heads out of the window.
Cops patrolling the area took turns taking pictures for spectators along the barricades, with cameras or cell phones.
Vendors sold every kind of imaginable paraphernalia: t-shirts, banners, flags, caps, buttons – all with the effigy of the Pope on them, or the Vatican’s ensign.
Since we were with the press, we were continually being asked “Where is the Pope?” or “Do you know how long until he gets here?” Our assignment desk was, thankfully, sending me updates on the Pontiff’s movements, so I was usually able to give them some kind of answer.
Finally, after nearly four hours of waiting, the procession of police motorbikes and security that precedes the Pope started being distinguishable in the distance. A secret service police officer walked ahead, searching the crowd, asking those watching out of their apartments to close their windows.
The crowd erupted in cheers, I guess happy to finally be repaid for their patience.
The bright, white, oddly shaped car that carried the Pontiff approached, the Pope sitting in the protruding attachment at the back. He waved, smiled and nodded to the crowd.
Within seconds he had moved on and the crowds started to disperse rapidly. I was left wondering about the amount of excitement that this one individual had created, and how much time and resources had been poured in this, to ensure that this crowd was given their 15 seconds with the Pope.
We then also packed out gear, and headed off.
Filed under: Pope Benedict
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