In the wee hours of Saturday morning, me and my fellow photographers were pumped and ready to capture every possible moment. Around 5 a.m., we were whisked away to the Atlantic Aviation Tarmac via police escort — that was cool — to shoot the Pope’s arrival. An unexpected continental breakfast was waiting for us and the Bishop Shanahan band around 6 a.m. At this point, we had a few hours to wait, and with an impending sugar crash, we had a choice to make: sleep or shoot. As you can see, a few chose to catch Z’s before the big moment, but knowing myself, I decided it would be better to push through. I kept busy by photographing the crowd and the Bishop Shanahan Marching band while everyone excitedly prepared for the big moment.
The band played upbeat tunes like the Rocky theme and Happy, by Pharrell, while the crowd’s anticipation grew. I was in the zone as the jet carrying the Holy Father came into view, and was relishing every moment as he stepped onto the appropriately decorated, moveable “airstairs” to make his way to crowd below. He greeted the local Catholic clergy followed by the Bowes family (the family of a retired police officer who was injured in the field and chosen for this honor) and government officials including Gov. Tom Wolf, the wonderful and talented Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, World Meeting of Families Executive Director, Donna Farrell, Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Independence Blue Cross CEO Daniel Hilferty. These exciting moments were followed by a brief press conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and finally, the Pope’s Festival of Families nighttime parade route.
These moments, although exhausting, were the start of one incredible weekend for me personally, and the city of Philadelphia as a whole.