As the last train departed the Marcus Hook station at approximately 1 p.m., Sunday afternoon, Greg and Kelly Riddaugh stood dejected and seemingly in shock next to a table filled with Pope Francis commemorative t-shirts and lanyards.
The Lower Chichester couple was disillusioned with the lack of pilgrims that actually came through the train station.
“We took a chance and got burnt,” said Kelly, as she was folding dozens of t-shirts preparing to leave. “It was estimated that 5,000 people a day were going to go through this train station. I think about 900 came on Saturday and 1,200 today.”
Kelly said when her husband initially heard the numbers of people expected, he came home and excitedly suggested they have the t-shirts printed.
“We spent about $2,500 on these shirts and I think they are really nice,” Kelly said. “But, as of right now, my husband has about $500 in his pocket. We are out a lot of money.”
Tom McLaughlin, owner of Lefty’s Pub in Marcus Hook, had breakfast sandwiches ready for pilgrims and was charging $25 for parking at his establishment that is located at the exit of the bridge on Market Street. He too, was disappointed at the actual numbers of travelers going into Philadelphia.
“The National Guard was out in force bright and early this morning, but they just up and left when they saw the numbers of people were not as expected,” said McLaughlin. “We were told that people were dropped off by relatives or friends instead of parking their cars here.”
On Sunday afternoon, the day of the pope’s mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Marcus Hook train station lot had a decent number of cars, but there were ample spaces yet to be had.
It was estimated that between 850,000 and a million people would pack the Parkway in Philadelphia, but the numbers were far less and the event planning staff seemed way off the mark.
Prior to the pope’s arrival in Philadelphia, local communities in Delaware County declared individual states of emergency for their municipalities. Lower Chichester, Marcus Hook, Trainer and Chester Township were among them. In all cases, the mayors or Council presidents, when making the declaration, said the move was to ensure their individual communities would receive federal funding if there had been an emergency situation.