I would like to specifically mention the kind efforts of Officer Stephanie Velazquez during the Festival of Families before Pope Francis' arrival. There were several ticketed attendees, who, because of security restrictions and their later arrival, could not access their seats as the entrance to the seated area was then closed. Many were overwrought, upset and crying about not being able to pass through, believing they could arrive later, having tickets. We could all understand their frustration at being obstructed from such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, many traveling from outside the Philadelphia area, one even arriving from Hartford, Conn. As we volunteers attempted to comfort these individuals, Officer Velazquez went above and beyond, going out of her way to contact the Secret Service personnel to request their assistance. Because of her compassion and action, all of the ticketed individuals were allowed to pass through to their seats, unhindered. Officer Velazquez was not required to do what she did, which makes her actions all the more special. She is truly blessed, and those individuals she assisted will never forget the kindness extended to them by her.
I intend to also send these heartfelt thanks to the Philadelphia Police Department, hoping that they will recognize what a beautiful and special person Officer Velazquez is, both inside and out. Thank you, Officer Velazquez, for showing why we native Philadelphians are so proud of our police!
Holocaust reference reprehensibleMr. Bykofsky,
After reading your column, we were struck by your reference to Center City being a concentration camp, which is very inappropriate and unnecessary. We thoroughly enjoyed biking and mingling with thousands of residents and visitors this weekend in a car-free zone. We were humbled and proud to participate in this joyous weekend. Our ancestors were taken from their homes, marched to concentration camps in Europe, and then were executed on a mass scale. In no way were people trapped and stripped of their freedom to maneuver through the area; we had no trouble at all entering and exiting Center City.
Please do not compare this weekend's experience of love and peace with the horror of bigotry and intolerance.
Matthew Closter and Julie Berger
Shaped by the sistersThose of us who grew up as African-American children in designated poor areas and received a Catholic education by way of St. Katharine Drexel's endowment are grateful by Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament are a remarkable group of women. I'm glad I was a student at St. Bartholomew/Parkside Catholic School.
Although, I'm not Catholic myself, I value the experience.
Wayne E. Williams
No riot, all riot gearPerhaps the media did scare people from venturing out to see the pope during his visit to Philadelphia. But the heavy presence of military vehicles and police wearing tactical riot gear wasn't very comforting, either!
Drexel Hill, Pa.