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Tens of thousands race out of Central Park after Pope Francis waves to faithful

Pope Francis waved at faithful on his way to Madison Square Garden

NEW YORK – A crowd of 80,000 strong raced out of Central Park minutes after Pope Francis waved at the faithful on his way to Madison Square Garden.

Related: Pope holds Mass at Madison Square Garden

The blessing in passing meant the world to one crowd.

"It was awesome. You want him to turn and say, 'Hey!' You just want to see him," Alma Mendoza said. "The feeling of having him so close and that really means a lot to us."

At one point, the excitement proved a bit much. An overflow crowd rushed onto Columbus Circle to try and get a glimpse of the pontiff, but a cavalry of New York City Police Department officers kept the line back.

For some people, it's been a long journey to this moment.

"We went to D.C., and we saw him over there, and now we came here, and tomorrow, we're leaving for Philadelphia to see him there and then we head back home," one person said.

Earlier in the day, the Secret Service brought in metal detectors and shut down Central Park West. A ticket scored someone a spot in a line that stretched for hours and as far back as the eye could see.

There was no shortage of papal keepsakes. Just name it and the pontiff's face was on it, an offering of sorts that made the day a little more special for some.

"Anything that can bring out people in faith and love and peace can't be all bad," Dainetta Gilmore said. "I'm not Catholic, but I respect anybody that can bring people together like this man is bringing people together."

The religious experience was a family affair. The pope's stroll in Central Park marked another generation of the Kuhn family seeing a pontiff in person.

"My mother saw John Paul in '79 at Yankee Stadium. I saw Pope Benedict at Yankee Stadium," Virginia Kuhn said. "My daughter is right now at MSG for the Mass, and this is my granddaughter, generation No. 4, to see the pope."

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