I wasn’t one of the handful inside the Capitol, but was one of the ticketed folks on the West Lawn of the Capitol. We waited (the gates opened at five am – though I was not there nearly so early) for him to arrive and watched his speech on the jumbotrons (bless you, Pope Francis for spending so much time on the need to abolish the death penalty!).
When he came out, he was a vaguely anthropoid shape, dressed in white on a distant balcony. The experience was not physical closeness, nor even the presence of the Pontiff, which could have just as easily been experienced with far more clarity on a television (and perhaps more enthusiasm; it wasn’t the most rabid crowd I’d ever been in). Rather it was knowing that this was an important moment and you were there. Like the days when we have gone to the White House, such as when Osama Bin Laden was killed or Obama re-elected, when we went not to change history, because history was already changed, but to be there, at a symbolically important location, at a symbolically important time when something important (and good) was happening. Such things are important, personally.