A memorable first photo credit

Pope Benedict XVI begins his popemobile trip from the headquarters of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception April 16 to greet Catholic leaders and meet with the U.S. bishops (CNS photo/Emily Thompson)Coming into work on this beautiful 65-degree morning, I knew it was going to be a long day. My boss had scheduled me to be here for 12 hours — sitting at a desk under Secret Service lockdown and uploading pictures that other people got to take.

The Secret Service had already offered to take a handful of CNS employees down to the street behind the building to watch the popemobile drive by. I had decided to go and take my little Kodak point-and-shoot when Tony Spence, CNS director and editor-in-chief, handed me one of our office Canon cameras and told me to take his spot on the driveway as the pope transferred to his popemobile. I couldn’t believe it! Me, the graphic artist, gets a photo credit! To my relief, the camera was dummy-proof and had all automatic settings, so all I really needed to do was press a button and the rapid frames would begin. Now my only problem was that I had to wait seven more hours until I actually got to go outside and be the only member of ANY press allowed to watch the pope drive out of the parking lot of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Five o’clock rolled around, so I made my way downstairs ready to be escorted outside. The Secret Service officer — I’ll call him Ace — was quite a talker. He kept looking back and forth from his Blackberry to his watch and then from the building to me, talking the whole time about where I came from (Kentucky), why I moved to Washington (I’m impulsive), and what CNS is (not a newspaper). Suddenly, the entourage appeared. I asked Ace which limo the pope was in, and he said, “That one.” After I took about five pictures of “that one,” he added, “oh, that one, the second one.” It was about this time I realized Ace probably didn’t know any more about the situation than I did. Nice.

Alas, the pope disappeared into the tent and re-emerged in his popemobile. It was all a little too David Copperfield for me, but I knew this was my moment! The popemobile slowly made its way up to the building’s entrance, stopped for a few seconds, then proceeded so the pope could greet the crowds.

By the way, his brief stop in front of the USCCB entrance was no more than 10 feet from me! I didn’t even have to use the zoom lens that I didn’t know how to use. This was my one famous-person encounter. The pope had no idea who I was, in fact, he was staring out the opposite window, but I was on cloud nine. After the hoopla ended, I stood there with the camera trying to review what I had just shot when suddenly it occurred to me that I knew NOTHING about what I was doing, and if I didn’t just set the camera down, everything would be deleted. I ran back into the building with Ace yelling after me that he hoped I got the shot.

Now that the first ever CNS photo/Emily Thompson is up on the Web site, I can tell Ace that I did, indeed, get the shot. Happy Birthday, Pope Benedict!

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