Before I go, my colleague Gerald McKinstry, who covered the pope’s farewell from JFK last night, has some final observations:
It was a festive send-off, fit for a pontiff. And Queens was a particularly appropriate place to host the multicultural get-together.
Long before Pope Benedict XVI turned up at JFK, the boroughâ€™s diversity was obvious on the streets and parks of the borough.
The Archdiocese of Brooklyn includes Kings County (Queens) and is dubbed â€œA Diocese of Immigrants.â€
From the windows of the mediaâ€™s shuttle bus, one could see churches, synagogues and mosques along the travel route.
There were groups playing soccer and cricket next to each other at Flushing Meadow Corona Park with Shea Stadium and the Worldâ€™s Fair in sight.
Then there was that billboard that read â€œMaspeth is America,â€ alluding to that neighborhoodâ€™s diversity.
Thousands waited in line and eventually packed an airport hangar to get a last look at Benedict before his nearly 8 hour return to Rome. Before the pope arrived, though, all the action was in the crowd.
So many there dressed in traditional ethnic garb â€” Poland, Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana, and Vietnam were just some of the styles represented.
Posluszna Bogusiq, a native of Poland now living in Brooklyn, brought her four children who were decked-out in costumes of Krakow.
Bogusiq was a fan of the last pope â€” also from Poland â€” and said seeing this pontiff in person was â€œreally exciting.â€
â€œThis is the pope, we love him, too,â€ she said.
John Maloney, a 67 year old from Queens, had his Knights of Columbus regalia â€” the hat, cape and sash â€” for his second pope visit.
â€œThe only thing missing is the sword,â€ Maloney said as he motioned to where it would typically be on his belt. â€œWeâ€™re not allowed to have the swords.â€
(Getting through the Secret Service with a sword is pretty hard to do.)
â€œItâ€™s a good feeling that Iâ€™m one of the chosen few that came here,â€ Maloney said. â€œTo do it a second time is awesome. A lot of people are not around to see that.â€
Although there was great pride among the ethnic groups, a show-stopper, no doubt, was the troops. The crowd rose to their feet and roared as the U.S. soldiers marched in to take their seats; they did the same as they left.
During the festive-like rally, which included many songs and prayers, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio reminded the faithful of what he expected when the pope arrived.
â€œIâ€™m sure I can count on an appropriate Brooklyn and Queens cheer,â€ DiMarzio said. â€œDonâ€™t be afraid to do that.â€
There was no fear, just an exuberance from members of the Diocese of Immigrants.