Sunday, June 23, 2024

Pope John Paul II Flew Over Aurora in Five-Helicopter Convoy

Yes, Pope John Paul II flew over Aurora. It happened a long time ago. When Pope John Paul II arrived in Canada for World Youth Day in 2002 (July 23rd-28th ), before the Youth Day events took place he enjoyed a four-day vacation on Strawberry Island located on Lake Simcoe.

My memories are fading and I now vaguely remember our visit to the 260-acre Downsview Park in July 2002 to see the Pope. I remember taking a free subway from Mississauga, arriving at the park around four o’clock in the morning and waiting in the rain and dark thundering skies. We were standing in a huge crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, not even seeing the Pope when he drove by, just later on the stage, on the big screen.

However, I do recall the day when the Pope in a five-helicopter escort flew over the Town of Aurora. I remember grabbing my then film Canon SLR camera, running to the patio door, jamming my toe on the corner, suppressing the pain and successfully snapping a few pictures of the helicopters in the sky. The most I got was three helicopters per frame. We live near St. Andrew’s Valley Golf Club and if I remember clearly the flight took place over the golf course heading north towards Lake Simcoe.

Pope John Paul II

I thought I would write about this since I captured a few photos. Although I am sure I was not the only one to see the helicopters flying over Aurora, with one of them actually having the Pope on board, I searched to see if anyone else wrote about it.

My search led me to find someone from Aurora who actually was part of the convoy of helicopters flying Pope John Paul II over our Town. Unfortunately, the information came from Craig Nisbet’s obituary who passed away on April 8th, 2018, “Craig proudly flew for the air ambulance, first with Bandage One and then with Ornge, for 26 years. His aviation career took him across the country and included time with Canadian Helicopters as an instructor. High points included changing the light bulb on the top of the CN Tower, and flying as part of the convoy of helicopters accompanying Pope John Paul II during his visit to Toronto in 2002.

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