Precise details on security plans for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in September are still scant. The big picture, though, is pretty clear: getting around the city won’t be a breeze.
Residents near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway could have it the hardest.
That’s where the pontiff will celebrate a public Mass on Sunday afternoon for a congregation of more than a million. And why, two months out, people are already seriously weighing their options: stay or skip town.
Fairmount resident Cheryl Hornyak isn’t waiting for the Secret Service or City Hall to provide more information about parking, security perimeters or fences. She’s made up her mind. As soon as she heard so many people would be gathering so close to her house, she wanted out.
“I’d rather just take myself out of the equation and be somewhere else,” said Hornyak.
Like the beach. The Tuesday before Francis arrives, Hornyak and her family will head to her aunt’s Jersey Shore house in North Wildwood, where a pool, hot tub and sun deck await.
They’re not coming back until the Monday after the big Mass.
“Hopefully the city has cleaned up most of the mess behind it,” said Hornyak.
Fellow Fairmount resident Meghan Burnett doesn’t blame Hornyak for leaving. She’d probably be doing the same thing — if she could.
Burnett is pregnant. Her due date is just two days before Francis arrives. Which means it’s possible her first-born will greet the world the same day the Pope greets a jam-packed Parkway.
That’s making Burnett a bit nervous.
“I’d like to think that I’m hearty peasant stock, but I’m not entirely sure I can walk to Pennsylvania Hospital from Fairmount in active labor,” she said.
Still, it’s not keeping her up at night.
“What are they going to if there’s a pregnant lady going into labor? Certainly they’re going to let me go to the hospital. I mean I’m not going to have to deliver on Fairmount Avenue right?”
While the how isn’t nailed down just yet, a spokeswoman with the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council, of which Pennsylvania Hospital is a member, said all mothers-to-be will be able to get to the hospital of their choice to deliver their babies while the Pope is in town.
Others expect the Pope’s time here will be exciting in a more traditional kind of way.
Brewerytown resident Ronald El is pumped the Holy Father is coming. He lives just north of Fairmount and never considered ditching the city — not for a second.
“Everything is right on our doorstep. We got the best seat in the house, so there’s no reason to go anywhere. Some people are talking about going to Atlantic City or going to Wildwood or New York. The Pope is coming here. Why go?” said El.
Fairmount residents Emily and Ted Thorne came to the same conclusion. They were around when Pope John Paul II came to Philly in 1979 and have fond memories. Ted in particular.
“At the end when I left this house and actually saw him leaving town, him popped up through the sunroof of this limo that they had, and they had this light glow on him, it was one of those moments like: Wow,” he said.
They’re both looking forward to what the city will feel like this time around.
“There’s an energy that we always get when there’s an activity here. And we like to feel it as a positive energy. And I think this one will resonate, and it will definitely be something that I’ll always remember and always treasure as a memory,” said Emily Thorne.
If you’re a city resident still on the fence, know this: Officials say the final security plan may not be announced until after Labor Day, three weeks before the event.