Saturday, 2:15 PM
Greetings from the White House's South Lawn, where the crowd of thousands is now dispersing after an elaborate welcoming ceremony. The president and the pope have gone into the Oval Office to meet, and next time we see the pontiff he'll be taking a ride on his popemobile through the streets of the capital.
The day is picture-perfect here in Washington, sunny and clear and in the high 60s -- a little too warm, apparently, for some in the crowd -- three girl scouts standing in front of me fainted over the course of the welcoming ceremony, and one by one they were carried off or escorted to medical help by nearby Marines.
Security was unbelievably tight -- at one point I thought I saw the orchestra walk by with big violin cases on their backs -- a reporter who apparently spends more time in the big city than me informed me that those were not violins, but guns.
I saw the ceremony from a penned in area packed with press; most of the visiting Catholics were similarly penned in to various sections of the lawn, and some watched from bleachers. As is common for these visits, many held pairs of Vatican and US flags; I did see some cute little girls with handmade signs reading "We love you Pope Hope!"
Karen Hawk, a 59-year-old Holyoke native who now lives in Centreville, Virg., told me she came to the White House today because she viewed this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the pope. "It's fabulous,'' she said. "In my lifetime this is the only time I will get this close to the pope. And I'm from a long line of Irish Catholics." Like many in the crowd craning to see, she had one regret "I'm just a little too short.'' Her son, 37-year-old Charles Hawk, said he also thought Red Sox nation needed to show a little gratitude, given its successes. "We figured as Red Sox fans we should pay homage,'' Charles Hawk said.
Jaime and Zoraida Fonalledas told me they flew up here from their home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, just for a chance to see the pope. They're active in the Knights of Malta, and they saw John Paul II during his stop in Puerto Rico in 1986; here they're also planning to go to Mass with the pope at Nationals Park tomorrow. "We wanted to hear his words of peace and unity and love,'' Zoraida said. "And people here are so happy.''
I'm being evicted from the lawn (not just me -- everyone -- the event is over). More later.
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff
For all the blog posts on the papal visit, go here.
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