A part of the reason I was drawn to photojournalism was the hope that I'd get to be a first-hand witness to some significant events in human history. Behind my moving to New York City was a realization that given it's financial and political clout, my chances of experiencing such events would increase greatly should I situate myself there. And I've been lucky. In my few years in the big apple, I've witnessed the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Super Storm Sandy and it's devastation of the North East, legalization of same sex marriage and the recent emergence of the Black Lives Matter civil rights push.
Two weeks back, the most recent opportunity came along in being part of Reuters' coverage of Pope Francis' visit to the U.S.A. Our team was dotted along his route, capturing his every moment. From landing in Washington D.C through New York City and to his final stop in Philadelphia, our team had it covered. I had the pleasure of capturing his address to the United Nations General Assembly Hall on Friday September 25th, 2015.
Media began arriving to the United Nations incredibly early that day. By the time I turned up at 6:00 am, the lined snaked down the block. Some mentioned they'd arrived as early as 4:30. At seven, the gates opened and we slowly passed through two rounds of security checks before we were taken to media booths positioned in the General Assembly Hall. Soon my booth was packed. I sat with my laptop ready, captions written and white balances sorted all the while ducked under a TV camera from a Dutch network. It felt like every nation on earth was represented in our booth alone, as all the media of the world converged to witness the Pope's address.
On the screens in the hall, we watched live footage of the Pope arriving outside and being welcomed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Francis, surrounded by gaggles of security and vatican representatives, shuffled through hallways lined with vatican flag waving adorers, making his way toward us. Meanwhile below, the G.A. Hall was filling with the leaders of the free world. Merkal, Rouseff, Power, Morales. The Pope draws a crowd, that's for sure.
At ten on the dot, an announcer introduced the Pope and a large spotlight lit the center aisle. The nations stood and applauded as Francis, sporting his ever present smile and gracious wave, made his way through attendees toward the iconic lectern. Faces lit up around him. His speech commenced and cameras fluttered. Ten minutes in, U.N. staff emptied all from my booth except me (Reuters thankfully has a special place there) and allowed a new crowd of hungry press to enter. This rotation happened twice more to make sure that everyone had it covered.
Once the address came to a close, Francis stepped aside as the hall rose to it's feet and gave lengthy applause once more. Nodding gratitude, he exited, but the agenda was set. Never mincing words, he had brought his progressive opinions on the world's urgent environmental, economic and humanitarian issues to reverberate through the following week's 70th session of the General Assembly.