Friday, September 25, 2015

Shooting the Pope

Miranda came to New York after her family fled Cuba on a life raft one summer night in 2003. It was a rare escape as most such attempts failed in recent times. Miranda was sent to live with her mother's sister whose family lived in the East Village near Avenue C. Miranda worked as waitress at Favela Cubana on LaGuardia Place. Her aunt was friends with the owner.

Miranda was a deep believer in Fate, and that God was watching over her. She trusted life and people for that reason. She believed she was destined to escape Cuba and to come to New York and a new life.

Miranda was passionate about life and smartphones. She managed to save for a smartphone, which served her like a beacon of freedom. Miranda might go without meals. She might go without movies or other entertainment. But she would never be without her phone. It was the most important device for creating her identity.  She loved to take selfies in every possible setting, including just taking an image of some drink she had ordered at a bar. She thrived on posting on FaceBook and had gradually developed more than 200 FaceBook friends.

When Miranda learned that Pope Francis was coming to New York, she began to dream of shooting a  selfie with the Pope. She was excited that he was reviving the Church in Cuba, and she thought about how that would have such a positive effect on those of her family still living there.

She studied everything on the internet she could to find out his itinerary. He was arriving in Washington D.C.  and then coming to New York on Thursday to hold prayer at St. Patricks that evening. The next morning he would address the UN, hold a ceremony at the 9/11Memorial, visit a school in Harlem, motorcade through Central Park, and end with Mass at Madison Square Garden. Miranda marveled that the Pope could do so much in such a short visit and the plans put him in touch with so many different people---but always at a guarded distance.

Miranda thought about what would be the best opportunity to take a selfie with the Pope. As she took a work-break from Favela Cubana, she stood on LaGuardia Place looking south. She saw the Freedom Tower gleaming in the bright September sky. The tower was a symbol of her own escape to freedom with her family.  "It's perfect," she smiled, "it represents my life, and a picture with the Pope would be my greatest wish." Miranda prayed, and on the evening before the Pope's visit to the memorial, she walked around and tried to connect spiritually with the surrounding area. She imagined where the Pope might travel and how she might get in position.

Miranda told her co-workers and friends she would be trying to take a picture of herself with the Pope. They all laughed, but knowing she was vulnerable, they hoped she wouldn't get hurt.

That night Miranda couldn't sleep. She thought about the Pope and where he was. She wondered if he was sleeping. She prayed that her dream would come true, that Miranda would have the chance to take a picture with Pope Francis, who took the name of St. Francis of Assisi to help the poor and downtrodden. Miranda felt poor and downtrodden. Surely God would smile on her tomorrow and help her with her picture. She left her phone plugged in to make sure it would be charged.

Miranda left her apartment at midnight. and headed by foot toward the Freedom Tower. It wasn't easy. She was among the first to be on the scene, although some had been there all night. She had some coffee. She liked the smell of coffee in the early morning hours. There was a chill in the night air and the coffee warmed her. Somehow she managed to be near the entrance of the Freedom Tower and the memorial.

As expected people were overflowing the area, but the police were effective in maintaining control. Miranda had been lucky in being pushed along almost in step with the Pope's entourage and dignitaries as they moved forward. There were spaces where Miranda could get a good view of the Pope. The timing would have to be perfect, but if she held the phone at the right angle she would capture her face with the Pope in the background.

As the Pope moved along and came into her view, he would disappear behind the crowd and then appear again. Miranda was watching and timing it just right. She anticipated the next chance, and at the precise moment he would be visible, she turned and raised her phone to shoot a selfie with the Pope.

The world is a mysterious and dangerous place. Miranda could have never dreamed what would happen the way it happened at that moment. Suddenly there was violent push, and the crowd was screaming. And then she saw him, a dark and bearded man with a gun who was shoving his way toward the Pope. He knocked Miranda to the ground and her smartphone went flying. Police and military leapt on the man, and he was subdued within seconds without one shot being fired.

The Pope's party hastened forward to the Memorial Site where the ceremony was to take place. Everything calmed down as the attacker was hustled away. The entire event lasted only twenty seconds, a tiny rip in the fabric of time. The brevity and rapid resolution of the attempted attack led to the impression nothing had happened at all. It was completely censored from the media.

For a moment, Miranda lay there dazed, and then struggled to her feet. No matter how brief the attack had been, Miranda felt it ravage her soul. Her phone was gone! ...knocked out of her hand just as she was taking the selfie. She began to sob. In such a brief moment her world was completely destroyed. She tried to look for it, but people were now moving slowly, tightly packed together. Miranda tried to gather her thoughts. She tried to understand what had taken place. Maybe God was punishing her.

Then a young man approached her, holding her phone.  He was tall and strong. At that moment Miranda thought he was Prince Charming.

"Miss, I think this is your phone...is it not?"

Miranda reached out and took the phone and kissed it. She looked upward, thanking God for restoring her phone. And then she gave her savior a kiss of thanks.

Actually, Miranda was still in a state of shock. The handsome young man noticed this and took her for some coffee so she could settle her thoughts. Miranda thought that maybe this whole thing might have happened so they would meet.

She shared with her handsome hero that she had gone to the Memorial Site to try to take a selfie of herself with the Pope. He laughed, but said it was difficult feel sorry for her because the event had led to him meeting her. Even so, Miranda shared her deep disappointment at failing her mission. She had been terrified when she saw the bearded man with the gun, but was so thankful nothing happened. He escorted her home, but not before they exchanged phone numbers.

Later that night, Miranda gave thanks to God. Just as she was about to go sleep, she turned on her phone to look at messages. She looked at FaceBook and there was a notification of people liking her photo. She clicked on it, and there on FaceBook smiling at her was an Instagram of Miranda in a selfie with the Pope.

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