Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Pep Rally for the Pope

If you’ve ever traveled through Rome, you know that it is a necessity to hit the highlights like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and of course, Vatican City; however, how many of you would consider seeing the Pope to be one of the “necessary” elements of a Roman vacation?

Seeing as it is Holy Week and Easter is just a few days away, I thought it would be fitting to share with all of you the amazing opportunity my sister and I received while visiting Rome. The day my sister and I visited Vatican City, we were surrounded by tourists; all there to see either St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, or the Pope.

Before leaving on our trip, we realized that we would be in Rome on a Wednesday, which meant that if we could get the okay, we could have a chance to see and hear the Pope speak. Now, we are not Catholic; however, the opportunity to see Pope Benedict, well, that was something we were most definitely not going to pass up.

Due to the intense heat, the Pope opted to hold his weekly blessing indoors, which was quite nice considering the sweat that was already dripping off of me at that point. The line was long but surprisingly, security was quick; thus, our ability to get inside and get a seat quite fast. I felt like I was in a pep rally in high school. Crowds of people filed into this building, all ready and waiting to see the leader of the Catholic Church come and greet his followers and “fans.”

With my video camera in hand, I ordered my sister to snap pictures whenever I told her to. She is not one to take photos but I am. People began chanting, “Benedict Pope” over and over and it honestly began to feel like a concert, that the roof of the place might come off the second he stepped onto the stage area.

Swiss Guard

I looked around and saw the Swiss Guard standing by and couldn’t help but snicker at their jester-like appearances. Soon enough, Pope Benedict entered and the place went crazy! People were cheering and shouting his name…it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. As the various cardinals recognized specific groups that were present, the Pope showed his gratitude by raising his hands and bowing his head in thanks.

Providing a blessing in various languages, he finally presented his blessing in English. In complete awe, I aimed my video camera and sat back thinking, “I am actually here, in the presence of the Pope himself and I have him speaking on camera!” It was unreal. This man, who holds so much power in the Catholic Church, was speaking and I was lucky enough to be in his presence. There are so many people who are Catholic that would give their right arm to hear this man speak in person. It all became quite real right then that the reality of this entire trip was something that most people will never get to experience in their lifetimes.

I look at my parents and wonder if they will ever get the opportunity to travel abroad like that. Yes, we’ve been the Caribbean a plethora of times, but to go to Europe or Asia or Australia, will they ever get that chance. I hope so, because it is experiences like this one, seeing the Pope that is forever etched in my mind.

Have any of you ever seen or heard the Pope speak? What did you think?

Friday, April 15, 2011

To Be Touched or Not To Be Touched…Isn’t That the Question?

If you’re a traveler, or at least in my case, someone who loves to travel but needs more funding to do so, you are at some point going to make your way through a busy airport. (I’m sure many of you already know where this post is going).

With recent breaking news about two children being frisked by TSA agents, I cannot help but be bothered by this. Not that this is “new” news by any means, but seeing it reoccur in the media sparks a major concern for me.

Although I don’t have any children of my own, it bothers me to see these 6-7-8 year old kids being patted down like this. As many have argued, we teach children not to allow adults to touch them, yet, when we go through an airport, it suddenly becomes “okay” for an airport security official to do so. I don’t know how many times my mother told me to never let anyone touch me in any way that made me feel uncomfortable. Is this not sending mixed messages to these kids? I’m fairly certain that a six-year old child is not going to understand why 1) she/he is being pulled out of line to be frisked and 2) why some stranger is touching she/he when the parents have told them never to let anyone touch them in such a way.

I am all for being safe when it comes to flying and understand that in the world we’re living in, it is a necessity to take certain precautions, whether we like them or not; however, when it comes to small children being put through a scanner and then “randomly” pulled out of line for a pat-down, I think it is unacceptable.

In the instance of one 8-year old boy who was flying to Disneyland with his family, he was pulled out of line, frisked, and immediately asked his mother if he was a “bad person.” He was also worried that he wouldn’t be able to go to Disneyland because of what happened. That is horrible to make a child feel that way!

As an adult, I have no qualms walking through that scanner. Whoever is sitting behind that little screen may not like what they see as I’m no skinny Minnie, but it sure beats being touched or groped. Does anyone remember the woman who had to remove her artificial breast when asked by a TSA agent? Or the TSA agent who busted a man’s urinary bag because he didn’t care to listen to the man’s insistence that he be careful when patting him down?

A woman in my state reported to the news that when she flew out of our local airport, she would make sure to wear pants next time instead of a skirt. What does that tell you? I’m sorry but no one is sticking their hands between my legs when I’m wearing a skirt. You don’t go to the airport to be touched in such a way and it aggravates me that people like these agents are capable of doing and asking such things.

All that aside, and back to issue of young children, I understand that new discussion is being brought about in regards to how agents “frisk” these children. As far as I’m concerned, bring the parent back with the child and let them stand there as they pat these kids down. At least the child would feel more comfortable with the parent standing right there reassuring them that everything is okay. No young child wants to be pulled aside, away from its parents like that. I don’t care if it is just a few short feet away or not.

Obviously, this issue is not keeping me from flying. In fact, I’ll be flying to Miami in two weeks for a family cruise, which by the way, I’m very excited. I’m just curious to see how things will go while I’m going through security. Hopefully, I’ll just walk right into that scanner and walk right out. If not, trust me…you guys will know about it.

So I ask, what is your take on all of this? Do you mind the full-body pat downs? How would you react if your child was chosen for one?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Piece of History

I don’t know if many of you know this, but currently, the flag that flew at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks, it is touring the country right now, all 50 states. Today, in my hometown, it made an appearance.

My parents and I decided to spend an hour out of our day and go see this beautiful flag that represents this great country. Attaching it to the ladder of a fire truck, six firefighters and around 10 Army and Air Force ROTC students helped to hoist this wondrous flag into the air, making sure that it never once touched the ground beneath them.

As I watched this symbol of American pride rise higher and higher, the sense of pride flowed through me and I found myself tearing up because of how utterly beautiful this flag was, blowing in the wind.

The mayor spoke, asking everyone to pledge allegiance to this American symbol and I’ll admit, it was quite difficult saying the words because I was so choked up. Hearing them proclaim that this flag flew in remembrance of all those who died on September 11, 2001, it was beyond humbling to be in its presence.

Looking around, I saw firemen, police officers, and young men who wore the uniform. What I didn’t see was a plethora of community members who came out to show their support for this amazing event. No news crews, a few photographs, but that was all. I was immediately ashamed that my community could care less about seeing this piece of history.

I saw several small children remarking about how cool it was to see such a huge flag and I suddenly realized right then that I was amongst those who were not even alive when the towers fell that day. It made me realize just how important events like this one are to the people of this country. I was 16 years old when 9/11 happened and it is something I will never forget, just as my parents remember where they were when JFK was shot, or when the Challenger exploded. These are pieces of history that are etched into our minds…or at least they should be.

Seeing all of these children, I wanted to scream out, “Where is everyone else?!” Why weren’t others in the community here to witness this moment? Shouldn’t this be what we are telling our kids about? That hundreds upon hundreds of people lost their lives that day and the brave men and women who wear the police and firefighter uniforms sacrificed themselves in order to save the lives of others? That 9/11 was a time when people banded together and actually became united?

It broke my heart that people thought so little to attend such an event. Why is it that thousands of people come out to support our college football teams, but they won’t come out to support our country?

Seeing that flag today, it made me realize just how incredibly lucky I am. Not only do I have amazing men in my family who have worn the firefighter and military uniform, and fought to keep this country free, but one of my closest friends just came back from his second tour and is now safely home with his family and friends.

It is events like this one that should bring communities together and remind us that freedom isn’t free; that the United States isn’t invincible; that events like 9/11 will never be forgotten.