Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Monday, September 28, 2015


The world's most walkable city  
(for one weekend anyway...)

My neighborhood is a mix of bicycles and pedestrians.   Black shirts and white collars.
Some real...

Some not so real...

I didn't think it would be fun.

Fearing crowds and danger, I was planning to escape to the shore.  I was afraid to be closed up in my apartment, forbidden to use my car, and isolated from the rest of the city.  I worry about things like that.

But the shore plans fell through, and I'm so glad they did.  It turned out to be a weekend I'll never forget!

In 3 days, I learn a lot about Pope Francis.  I hear his message of hope, love, and tolerance.  I listen when he reminds us of the principles that shaped our country, and how to work together to build a better world.  I'm touched by his compassion.  This Pope appeals to so many people, even our Rabbi quotes him at Yom Kippur services!

Plus, his winning smile is contagious.

Philly catches Pope-Fever.  Schools are closed.  (The kids call it a "Pope-cation.")  Everyone's in a great mood.

Our city is filled with people from around the world.  Yet it's also pleasantly QUIET.

Without cars on the street, Pope-adelphia is beautifully and fantastically WALKABLE.

Here are a few of my favorite postcards (or "Pope-cards") from the weekend:

Mile Marker 3185:  

The Pope has yet to arrive.  On Friday night, I go exploring with friends Donna, Mike, and Jasmine.

We listen to the sound-checks at Independence Hall.

We pose like the Beatles!

It feels like the city is ours.

Even 10-foot high fences can't bring down our mood!

The restaurants are empty too.  You'd think Mike's collar would score us a table at Buddakan, but we didn't even need it!

On a Friday night?  Are you kidding?

There's a neighborly feeling in the air.

When the fire alarm goes off in our building, we deem it a "Pope Drill."   We eat a "Pope-Luck Dinner" together.   We represent Old City, the eastern edge of The Pope Zone.

My apartment sits at the perimeter of what we locals call "the box," a 4 square mile area of concrete barriers and security checkpoints.

On every corner, there are National Guard officers and Secret Service agents.  But surprise, they're smiling and friendly!

Pope Francis has brought some nice people together!

Mile Marker 3190:

On Saturday morning, I go out to test my socket.  That's where I run into Richard.

He's rolling along the sidewalk in his wheelchair, using his remaining leg to push along the ground.  Richard lives in the building next door to mine.  And in case you haven't guessed, he's a recent amputee.

Today he's wearing his new prosthesis, and beaming.  "Hello, Rebecca!  Look what I've got!"  (He has a terrific British accent.)

"That's awesome!" I say, admiring his leg.

"I can't walk in it yet," he tells me.  Then adds merrily, "I'm going to see the Pope!"

As if this makes perfect sense.

Richard is going to see the Pope.  ON HIS OWN.  He plans to inch along, propelling himself in his wheelchair all the way to Independence Hall.  The Pope isn't due for another 6 hours, so time is on his side.  But jeez, talk about bravery!!

I abandon my test drive.  "Would you like a push to Market Street?"

He says that'd be splendid.

I roll Richard's chair into the car-free street.  We pass two National Guard soldiers who wave and say good morning.  They ask if we need any help.

Help?  Richard and I look at each other.  All at once, we see what they must see.

We both get a laugh!

Then a woman named Anne walks up next to us.  I notice she's wearing an electrical stimulator on her leg.   But Richard notices something different.  She's got a fancy "Pope Pass" hanging on a chain around her neck.

"Excuse me," he calls out. "Where might I get one of those?"

She stops and unzips her pocket.  "Here, I have an extra one."

I'm not kidding.  The Pope brings out the best in Philadelphians!

Anne joins us on our walk.  I ask about the stim device, and Anne tells me she did her rehab at Magee.  Small world.

Click to see
what NOT to bring...
This walk feels kind of like a Wizard of Oz adventure.

Minus the flying monkeys, of course.  I'm sure they're prohibited!

When we reach the security checkpoint, it's time to say goodbye.  Richard and Anne proceed toward the metal detectors.  I turn away and head up 3rd Street toward Cafe Olé.

My socket's working fine, but this pilgrim needs some coffee!

Mile Marker 3195:

On Sunday, friends Ellyn and Adam walk down from Northern Liberties to meet me for brunch.

City kids!
Their two girls, Maya and Rachel, bask in the glory of a CAR-FREE 3rd Street.

We log a few more miles together, walking to Independence Hall where Pope Francis spoke the day before.  The checkpoints have been removed, but the chairs remain.  We scoop up great seats with no security hassle at all.

Wait!  Where's the mass happening today??

Mile Marker 3200:

On Sunday evening as Pope Weekend winds to a close, Jasmine and I venture out for one last walk.

We stroll down 2nd Street.  Literally.

Some security fences have been taken down.  They're wrapped neatly along the sidewalks, awaiting pick-up.

A few National Guard soldiers mill around on the corners.  They say hello -- but in a wistful way, like they're sad it's over too.

We pause in the middle of Market Street to take photos.  Just because we can.

Will we ever see it like this again?

Bikes jingle by.  Traffic lights change.  But no cars pass.  At 2nd and Chestnut, a bunch of guys play wiffle ball in the street.  Our city has turned into a Pope playground.

Jasmine and I make our way toward South Street, the southern border of "the box."  We continue into Queen Village, usually a quieter section of the city.  But there, 2 cars roll by.  Then 3.  Then 4.  Cars are parked bumper to bumper along the curbs.  It seems like they're everywhere.

It feels noisy here.  And more dangerous.  Like sensory overload.  We remind each other to look both ways before crossing the street.  We can't wait to go back to our Zone.

Funny how quickly we get comfortable with PEACE.

Mile Marker 3202:

Maybe Pope Francis brought out our hospitality and kindness.  Maybe the security measures renewed our sense of safety.  Maybe the time with neighbors strengthened our community.

Or maybe we just worked up endorphins from walking so much.

Whatever the reason, for a few brief days our city was TRANSFORMED.

It might be another 36 years till a Pope returns.  But I've heard talk about creating some car-free zones on weekends.  Perhaps once a year or once a month?   I like to think it could happen.

Maybe we've learned a few things.

Bring in hope.  And love.  And tolerance.  And good people.  And you really can't go wrong.

I woke up this morning to the roar of traffic outside my window.  It's Monday.  People are grumbling.  Clean-up is underway.  My socket's bothering me.

And of course, the cars are back.

But I've got 17 miles that show what we can do without them.


Hope to see you again soon!

Thanks Donna for letting me steal some photos from your "All Things Pope" album :)  

And thanks to the MANY, MANY first responders, National Guard, security personnel, police, medical teams, and volunteers who kept our city safe this weekend!


  1. The girls were so excited to make a guest appearance in your blog. Maya read the section to Rachel. Rachel said her favorite part of the weekend was running across 3rd street, although I suspect she also enjoyed pressing the button on your leg almost as much :-)

    1. Well, that button on my leg is quite exciting... I guess when you're 5, it might even seem more FUN than the Pope! It was awesome hanging with Maya and Rachel, especially since they're always up for a selfie. Come back to Old City anytime :)

  2. Rebecca, I was totally "with you" as I read through this post....having such fond memories of when I lived in Philly! (I miss it....particularly South Street.)

    I think that good energy spreads.....and this Pope definitely has it. Heck, I wouldn't return to Catholicism (the religion), but if there ever would be a drawing card, it would be Pope Francis.

    BTW, did you hear that Ted Cruz thinks that the vatican should fire him? Pretty funny I think....especially since the vatican doesn't fire popes. Lol....

    1. I know there are some people who don't like Pope Francis, but I certainly didn't meet any on my 17 mile journey this weekend! I admit I didn't know much about him before 3 days ago, but I really love what he did for our city!! (BTW, come visit anytime! South Street misses you too!)

  3. I went the other direction and stayed away from the Pope Philly mania. Too many people for my taste. Good to hear you had a great time!