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 ponchos 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 bed. But, 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 coming down 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 the Pope, himself.


Dick Kraus





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