Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Thousands of New Orleanians lined the route of the procession for Archbishop Phlip Hannan Wednesday hoping to get a glimpse of it, and to pay personal tribute to a man most consider the people's Archbishop.
The rumble of police motorcycles often marks the start of a Mardi Gras parade, but onlookers held their own beads -- rosary beads -- during Wednesday’s event.
Thousands gathered in Mid-City to honor the late Archbishop Hannan, rich, poor, black, white, Catholic, Protestant, young and old.
“He was good to everybody. Didn't matter if you were Catholic or not. He would help anybody and everybody,” said Sarah Blackwell, who set up a chair along Canal Street in advance of the procession.
More than 1,300 from Jesuit High School alone lined the route, including students, faculty and parents among them.
“He was a man who was very much, not Archbishop of a whole city, but Archbishop of all the people who lived in that city. So, that personal connection was always there,” said Jesuit High School President Father Raymond Fitzgerald.
Even though the full meaning of the moment may have been lost on the young, parents and teachers hoped the procession will have more meaning for them in the future.
“They're teenagers. They have a lot of things on their minds, but this is something that they're gonna remember for the rest of their lives whether or not they know it now,” said Jesuit High School Principal Mike Giambelluca.
The St. Augustine High School Marching 100 played upbeat songs to begin the procession. Current Archbishop Gregory Aymond even requested that they play "Get Crunk" as a tribute to Archbishop Hannan's love of the New Orleans Saints.
“He's happy now, I'm sure,” Blackwell said.
As the bands passed and the procession made its way through, people recorded the memory of the moment on their cell phones, a much different site than the last procession of its kind.
“The last time we were able to do this was in 1964 when Archbishop Rummel passed and we had the student body out here,” Giambelluca said.
“Thank you all for coming. God bless you,” Archbishop Aymond told students from each Catholic School as he passed them along the route.
Despite the sadness of the day, the procession had the markings of a true New Orleans funeral, a true celebration of a great life.
“I wanted to be out here just to show my respect. And I have a good feeling a miracle will be performed today,” said Joan Nelson, another of the thousands of faithful along the route.
At age 98, Archbishop Philip Hannan is now gone, but never forgotten, especially by the thousands who paid tribute along the way to his final resting place, the Saint Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.