At 7:47 p.m. Francis was in the air, leaving Philadelphia International Airport on a course for Rome that would take him over the Atlantic Ocean and under a "supermoon" lunar eclipse – when the moon appears larger than usual but is also completely eclipsed by the Earth for about an hour.
That rare combination hasn't occurred since 1982 and won’t again until 2033.
Francis boarded the American Airlines plane at 7:25 p.m. after exiting his Fiat and shaking hands for about 10 minutes.
Music was provided by the Cardinal O'Hara High School marching band, which played for Pope John Paul II in 1979. Yesterday's poppy tunes were very-not-1979.
"There's a little bit of a history there," O'Hara band director Nick Corvino said, when asked how his crew got the gig.
"And it probably doesn't hurt that Donna Farrell is an O'Hara graduate," he said, referring to the executive director of the World Meeting of Families.
Corvino had mostly kept the set list under wraps until the last minute. The band played: "Shake it Off " by Taylor Swift; "Happy" by Pharrell Williams and "Wavin' Flag" by K'naan. They also played a Latin American drum cadence written specifically for the Argentinian pontiff.
Seniors Elizabeth Bradley, 18, and Caroline D'Amico, 17, both drum majors, were planning to present the pope with a bouquet of flowers.
"It's a gesture just to show Pope Francis how much it means that he's here and to let us play for him," D'Amico said.
"It's inspirational to be able to play for the leader of the Catholic church," Bradley said.
Earlier in the day, a large media contingent and about a half-dozen Philadelphia police officers mingled in a tent at Atlantic Aviation – miles away from the chaos on the Parkway.
As far as police work goes – not to mention journalism – it was a fairly cushy assignment. The Eagles were playing on three TV screens.
"This is a lot better than the Parkway," said one of the cops working at the airport on what would have been his day off.
"We're just waiting for the pope and the meet-and-greet," he said, standing beside the buffet table at halftime.
Due to strict security measures, they had to be inside the tent more than six hours ahead of the pope's departure.
The Eagles snapped a two-game slide, defeating the New York Jets 24-17 in a must-win road game.
Divine intervention, perhaps? Who are we to judge?