INSIDER’S VIEW TO POPE FRANCIS VISIT: MIRACLE IN CENTRAL PARK
In the weeks and days leading up to the historic visit of Pope Francis to New York, I joined my New York Police Department colleagues in comprehensive planning, tremendous logistical efforts, and unprecedented collaboration with federal, state and local partners. 80,000 tickets had been distributed to spectators who flocked to the area to catch a glimpse of the Pontiff as he passed through Central Park located in my area of command. The stakes were high and the security measures extraordinary.
Although we anticipated the Pope to arrive in the late afternoon, thousands of spectators lined up at dawn. Entry points were opened at 11:00 a.m., leaving us only a few short hours to get everyone processed through magnetometers and safely into the Park before His Holiness’ arrival at 5pm.
By 4:15 p.m., twelve thousand people were still lined up on Central Park West waiting to pass through security checkpoints. I worried about getting everyone in on time. Quickly, we shifted thousands of ticket holders to entry points with shorter lines and increased the number of magnetometers at the heavier entry points.
Finally, at 4:59 p.m., with the Papal motorcade just moments away, I was thrilled to hear the announcement over the NYPD radio: “The line is clear!”
The Pope’s long awaited but fleeting visit through Central Park was met with thunderous roars and tears of joy. All departed the Park calmly and safely, elated to have been merely in His presence.
Kathleen O’Reilly is a contributor to the Homeland Security (HS) Vortex which is a platform where insiders from the policy, law enforcement, fire service and emergency management fields converge to discuss issues related to Homeland Security.
Follow me on Twitter @NYPDPBMN