Exodus begins after Pope Francis cruises through Center City

Seconds after Pope Francis made his second loop around the Parkway, crowds started exiting — quickly. Within minutes, the barricades lining the street, once with thousands of visitors pushed up against them, stood vacant as most people made an exodus toward City Hall. 

Francis Weikel, 12, who arrived on the Parkway mid-morning, said he was exiting because they didn't have tickets for anything. 

"They should've made one million tickets," he said. 

Spectators had arrived in the early hours of Saturday to find a prime position along the Parkway to see Francis. They took turns with bathroom breaks and food-truck runs. Most were cold as the sun dropped. 

"We just sprinted to the bathroom and sprinted back to make sure we wouldn't miss him," said Sarah Meitner, who came to the Parkway from Hays, Kan., with five kids — ranging from ages 1 through 11 — in tow. They parked in Camden and walked across the bridge, arriving at 11:30 a.m. 

"We're hoping to get close," she said, speaking about 30 minutes before Francis arrived. "He really is magical. He glows."

"And it's so wonderful to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with so many Catholics," Meitner said. 

Not all were pleased as they waited for Francis to arrive. "We've waited an entire day sitting here," her son shouted, elevating himself onto a pole on 16th Street in an attempt to see. 

Still, as the crowds exited, many remained jubilant. "Wasn't that amazing?" one girl said to a friend. 

"Seeing him was fantastic," said Bernice Carey, 64, grandmother to 12-year-old Weikel, who is from Haddon Township in South Jersey. "It's been all (Weikel) could talk about since Philly announced Pope Francis was coming."