Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pope Benedict visits Fifth Avenue...

Awaking on Saturday morning it didn't take long in looking out the window onto Fifth Avenue to know that something special was happening. Before 8am, people were starting to line the street northbound as I looked towards Central Park. Fifth Avenue is the traditional venue for most parades, with the exception of Thanksgiving (the fun one) which goes down Broadway. We get all the ethnic and national parades. St. Patty's day, Greek, Puerto Rican, Israeli... you name it and Fifth Avenue is host to it, but this morning was different.

Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI was going to celebrate Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, a few blocks south of us, and then go by motorcade up to the Vatican Mission to the UN at 72nd and Fifth to rest before heading up to Yonkers for another event.

I checked the website covering the Pope's visit to New York City to see when he was going to be at St. Patrick's. It said the Mass was at 0915 am. We had a 1215 pm lunch date with Jason & Helen Hughes, who had flown in from London and figured we could go to the terrace in my office before then and get some great pictures since it is directly on the route at 56th Street.

I have long admired the New York City Police Department. I have had many friends in senior positions there, but the part I admire most is how they manage in a city the size of New York to protect us while making sure we can still have fun. I remember a couple of years ago deciding to go to Times Square for New Year's Eve. You can imagine that in the years since 911, security has gotten very tight. Yet, with all the managing to check people entering the zone, every cop did it with a smile and a "happy new year" and by the time you cleared the queues, you didn't even mind the wait.

They do parades the same way. People are there to have a good time and while the city needs to see to it that bad things don't happen, the police make these events possible. You can imagine, with the UN in New York and the number of heads of state and visiting dignitaries, the City of New York is pressed like no other in providing protection to visitors. Today, with the declining dollar, we have become the bargain vacation site for Europeans and others around the world. The New York City Police does it all.

So, let me get back to yesterday. While we took pictures of some of the preparation and pictures of the giant TV screens in front of St. Patrick's as the Pope celebrated mass, the TV commentator reported that the Pope would lunch with Cardinal Egan in the residence before heading uptown, which wouldn't happen to 115pm. That was blowing a hole in our luncheon plans, so I called Jason and Helen and told them to join us at the office and we would get some takeout and eat up there while waiting for the Pope's motorcade.

With about 5 minutes to go before the motorcade was to begin, 7 uniformed police officers of all ranks showed up at our door and rushed to our terrace to see what was going on. It seems that the helicopter flying above spotted people on our terrace (that was us) and needed to clear them from the elevated route. Wow!!!

So, having quickly satisfied themselves that we weren't dangerous, they told us to get off the terrace and go inside. I said, if we do that, we won't be able to take any pictures and after all, what was the point of having the terrace if you can't use it. Then the Inspector in charge did a typically New York thing. He said to the Sergeant, "OK, you stay here on the terrace with them". And so it was that we are able to bring you these videos courtesy of the NYC Police Department. A great bunch of guys.

No comments: