By Cherri Gregg, Melony Roy, Rahel Solomon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Hundreds of thousands lined Ben Franklin Parkway from Eakins Oval to LOVE Park Sunday for the historic Papal Mass.READ MORE: Remembering Pearl Harbor: Camden County Holds 80th Anniversary Ceremony On Battleship New Jersey
The day began in the wee hours of the morning for many:
“My husband and my daughter and I left at 1:30 (a.m.) from our house,” says Rose Sesay, who drove from Virginia and arrived in Philadelphia at 6 a.m. “I’m tired, but the anticipation is wonderful.”
Rose and thousands of others waited for hours along the rails on the Parkway. They sang, they chanted and stood patiently waiting, some since 5 a.m.
And after 3 p.m., Pope Francis arrived, waving and smiling in his Popemobile.
“It’s the best moment of my life. It’s unbelievable,” this person said.
Then what the crowd had been waiting for: the Holy Father lead a mass of thousands.
The faithful prayed, some with tears in their eyes.
“It was beautiful to see the Holy Father,” says James Greenwood. He was 14-years-old when he saw Pope John Paull II with his family, and 36 years later he made the trek across the Ben Franklin bridge with his sister.
“It was awesome, one experience I’ll never forget,” adds Pastor Hazel Mac from North Philly. “This experience, although I’m not Catholic, was certainly for the family and not only bring Catholics together but every religions.”
She wasn’t planning to attend this mass, but says she was given tickets last minute on Thursday.READ MORE: Spirit Airlines Adding 7 New Flight Destinations From Philadelphia
Also among the crowd were Daniel Coppa and his mother, Margie, from Upper Darby.
“I just love how he’s smart and courageous and he’s also a good Pope,” he said.
She adds the event was organized well and the commute into the city wasn’t bad.
As CBS 3’s Rahel Solomon reports, for many it has been countdown after countdown and waiting and more waiting.
“I stood in line for about four hours I think to get in and it was worth it,” said Gaye Painton of Center City.
But Sunday evening, pilgrims could count down no more and had to wait no longer.
Before mass, Pope Francis made his way around the Ben Franklin Parkway kissing babies and children along the way. And people went to great lengths to get a good view.
“He just a very special human being,” said Painton.
For people leaving the Parkway they say they can’t believe mass is over, the day has come and gone but for some who didn’t even make it inside, they say the day is still worth it.
“I guess just being in this whole atmosphere and being with all these people — the whole environment, the spirituality, I guess that in itself is a blessing,” said Shoba Babu.
Babu waited for hours in security — so long she never made it inside. Michael Walsh of Virginia has been waiting too. As a child he met Pope John Paul II.
“It was a very vivid memory and I still remember it until this day,” said Walsh.MORE NEWS: Amazon Web Services Outage Affecting Many Online Sites
He has been waiting to give his children the same experience. And now the wait is over.