By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (retired)
On one of Pope John Paul’s earlier visits to New York City, I was assigned
to one of three flat bed trucks that were supposed to precede the Papal car.
Truck A was supposed to be on the left side of the motorcade; I was in truck
B on the right and a special pool truck for the wires, networks and magazines
was to be in the center. These trucks are designed especially for media use during
VIP motorcades through the city. A multi-tiered platform is constructed on the
flat bed so that all the cameras can get a clear view of the luminary.
This particular day was overcast with a steady rain. In spite
of the weather, hundreds of thousands of spectators lined
the sidewalks to cheer as the Holy
Father motored through the canyons of Manhattan. I don’t know what the
reason was, but the only flat beds that were in a reasonable position were Truck
A and the pool truck. My truck was so far in advance of the Pope’s car
that you could barely pick it out of the crowd of limousines carrying city officials
and church leaders. All of our protests fell on deaf ears, and the only thing
that was left for us was to try to shoot some side-bar of kids on father’s
shoulders and posters and banners being held up to welcome the Pontiff.
At one point, the Pope was to leave the motorcade to give a talk
somewhere. We weren’t allowed to leave the trucks because the auditorium was a pool only
situation. We took the brief respite to voice our displeasure about our positioning
in the motorcade to parade officials. A compromise was reached. After the motorcade
reached the Battery, the route would then run through Brooklyn and on into Queens.
It was suggested that we break off from the parade, and with a police escort,
we would go directly to a location in Queens and be in a good position to shoot
the events when the motorcade arrived. That sounded better than what we were
getting, so all of us agreed.
Because of the steady rain, all of us had stopped at a convenience
store to purchase plastic trash bags to wrap our cameras
in. We also formed make-shift
to try to keep dry ourselves.
Three NY City Police cars preceded our lone truck through Queens
to our appointed rendezvous, while we huddled wet and miserable
on the open flat
as we approached the crowds lining ten deep on the Queens sidewalks,
we could hear them cheering. They saw the flashing lights
of our police escort
the street and assumed the the flat bed truck contained His Holiness.
“The Pope, the Pope...viva il Papa” the crowd roared as we drove
past. A photographer from Newsweek, shrouded in plastic trash bags, had the position
at the very rear of the truck, He raised his arms and with upturned palms, gave
the crowds his blessing.
As we lurched through the pot-holed streets, looking back we
could see the crowds thinning out, convinced that they had
been blessed by