I had figured that the Holy Father would finish his visit at the White House around noon, and then it would take a while for the motorcade and popemobile to get organized. And if things ran late, then he wouldn’t be heading up the hill until maybe even one.
So at noon I fire up papalvisit.org and the live video feed. And there he is, already in the popemobile, on the move on Pennsylvania Avenue! Yikes!
I grab my backpack and coat and start running. I figure I am too late to go straight south the four blocks, straight to Pennsylvania. He’s moving west, so I head west as well, on M Street. They meet, M and Pennsylvania, right before Georgetown.
I can see the crowds down at the ends of the blocks as I hustle past 22nd, then 24th. (No crowds allowed at 23rd, at Washington Circle, apparently.) Think maybe I see the popemobile in the distance across one of the blocks as well. I finally cut south at 26th, at that little park there, just a small block north of Pennsylvania. There are a few folks lining the sides of Pennsylvania, as well as three looks like college kids relaxing in lawn chairs. I tear off my backpack to try to get the camera out, but suddenly I’m all fumble-fingered and inept with the lock. And suddenly this very second of course he goes riding by. Ah well. No picture, but I do see him pretty close, maybe half a block away. The college kids lounging in the chairs wave enthusiastically.
So that’s it then, I think, walking the few feet back to M Street. But looking west at the mess of the traffic jam trying to get into and through Georgetown, I wonder idly where the motorcade is going next. Thinking about where we are in relation to the Nunciature up Massachusetts, I suddenly realize that they’re likely to be heading up Rock Creek Parkway. And I’m only like 100 feet from the bridge where M Street goes over the Parkway.
So I trot over, and sure enough there’s the motorcade going right below. I catch my best glimpse yet of the Holy Father, sitting in the popemobile with Archbishop Wuerl, just before he goes under my feet. (I had yanked out the camera phone and tried to snap a pic with that, but the shutter lag utterly screwed me. So no pix again.)
I turn around and dash through the stopped cars to get to the north side of the bridge, to watch the motorcade head north away from me. Two cops start yelling at me, telling me that I have to keep moving, that there’s no stopping on the bridge. I usually react with solicitousness, followed soon by anger, but then immediately replaced with an overwhelming self-loathing at such encounters with preening petty authority like this. But at this moment I am filled with such cheer at having seen His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI that I do just keep moving, start walking back to the office.
Not quite the experience I was hoping to have, but a small measure of success anyway.