Pope’s protection is a “logistical nightmare,” expert says

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There are big security challenges as Pope Francis begins his trip to the United States.

"It's a logistical nightmare," said retired Secret Service Agent Bill Albracht.

Albracht should know.  He helped to protect Pope John Paul II during a 1979 trip to New York.

"The crowds would literally engulf him, making our job extremely difficult," he recalled.

Sixth graders at St. Paul The Apostle Catholic School in Davenport are a long way from the front lines of safety, but they are a part of living history.

As they watch web coverage of the Pope's visit, teacher Tara McCabe relays a message from the Pope's own phone app.

"The Pope said he is happy to be going to a country built largely by immigrants," she read.

That resonates with youngsters who admire this Pope of the people.

"He sees crowds, and he'll let them touch him," said Andrew Goldermann, 11.

"It's important for him to come and share his word with other people," added Kat Hartog, 11.

That can provide important lessons about security.

Albracht spent 26 years protecting presidents and world leaders in a variety of settings.

Lengthy security preparations for the Pope focus on prevention, even from eager well-wishers.

"Somebody will rush up just to touch him, just to be near his eminence," Albracht said.

The security detail involves international cooperation in the age of terrorism.

"Who better would they like to take out than the head of the Roman Catholic church," Albracht said.

It's also protecting the future for Davenport seventh graders.

Samantha Scodeller, 12,  admires the Pope's personal approach.

"It seems like he just feels closer," she said.  "His message will be more direct for us, specifically."

"It's exciting for us because it's his first visit ever to the United States," added Tyler Maro, 12.

It's a personal visit tempered by tight security.

"You're cutting the odds down," Albracht said.  "The more you do, the lesser the odds that somebody can get to him."

Agents will work to keep the legacy alive for these kids.

"It's a maddening game," Albracht concluded. "It has to be done in this world."

 

 

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