Preparing for the Pope: ‘Did That Really Just Happen?'

Did that really just happen?

After my first uninterrupted night of 8 hours of sleep in 5 days, I am trying to wrap my head around what our three person team was lucky enough to experience in Rome.

I couldn't have done it without producer and digital Managing Editor, Karen Araiza and photojournalist Jason Ryan.

The highlight, no doubt, was the 5th day of the trip -- the public audience with the Pope, where members of the World Meeting of Families delegation from our area got to meet the Holy Father and let him know how much they look forward to his likely visit to Philadelphia in September of 2015.

And this amazed me: seeing some very accomplished, high-powered Philly-area leaders, tell me how nervous they were about their moment with Pope Francis.

From Pennsylvania's governor, to Philadelphia's mayor, to top CEOs, each admitted to a case of the jitters as they anticipated a face-to-face meeting with the leader of the Roman Catholics. I wasn't even going to be one of those meeting the man, but as the Pope wound his way through the estimated 100,000 people in St. Peter's Square, I felt the excitement as well; it's impossible not to.

When Pope Francis walked right past me, I had to steady my hand as I snapped pictures with my iPhone and fumbled with the device to tweet them out or text our morning anchors who were on-the-air back home.

Jason and I then scrambled to the row of chairs set up at the base of the steps to the Basilica for the assembled throng of photographers and videographers. I gave my spot to Jason so he could get a better line on the Philadelphia delegation seated just to the right of Pope Francis.

I ended up sitting on the cold, hard cobblestones as rain started falling on The Vatican.

At one point, all that was visible of me were my feet as I huddled under the umbrella. It wasn't comfortable, but it didn't matter; I was witnessing a memorable moment in time. It's just that kind of privilege that makes me grateful for this career.

That was the culmination of several days of what felt like nonstop scrambling.

My crew and I powered through near-sleepless nights. It was far from glamorous. We worked 8 a.m. to midnight or later each day, then set the alarm for 3 a.m. so we could be live for NBC10 News at 11 p.m. back home at 4 a.m. local time.

We were constantly bridging two time zones, doing the math so as not to miss deadline. Naps were nirvana. Meals were often working lunches. We transformed one of our hotel rooms into a mobile production unit.

You can see in one of the pictures where we made a makeshift audio booth behind the drapes with a pile of pillows to muffle the room sound. There's Karen grabbing a bite of some fresh mozzarella and tomato between blogging, phone calls and planning.

And, amazingly, all it takes is a shoe-box-sized device that uses cellular technology to beam our images back home.

Our picturesque live location was the rooftop of our hotel; a beautiful backdrop from every corner.

When a marathon closed streets throughout the city the day before the delegation arrived, we had to hoof it about a mile to meet our driver to get some stories done.

Karen and I took advantage of the enforced walking tour to snap pictures all along the way, while our hotel doorman joined us to carry some of our gear.

These are the moments the viewers don't get to see, but that make the experience even more memorable.

We powered through our sleep-deprived haze and did manage to find moments to grab a killer cappuccino at one of Rome's far more original versions of a Starbucks.

Or check out ancient architecture at every turn.

The view out my hotel window took in The Pantheon, the best-preserved building from Ancient Rome, built by the emperor Hadrian 1800 years ago. So much history. Our hotel, we were told by our impromptu tour guide, Father Bill Donovan, Philadelphia Archdiocese liaison to The Vatican, was headquarters to the Gestapo during World War II.

Fr. Donovan was gracious enough to take us on a private tour of The Vatican Gardens and the Swiss Guard barracks the moment we landed in Rome. Even in our jet-lagged haze, we knew how fortunate we were to be on this assignment.

Of course the big question during the trip was whether The Vatican would somehow give the green light to confirming that Pope Francis would, in fact, attend The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year.

That didn't happen.

But the smiles on the delegates faces after meeting individually with him said all we needed to know; it's going to remain a wink and a nod, if you will, until sometime next spring or late winter. That's just how the Vatican operates.

I can deal with that. I got to go to Rome.

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