The woman in the black suit and hat sobbed uncontrollably as she told how Pope John Paul II had kissed her 18-month-old, cancer-stricken daughter.
"I think this is God's sign to us that she is cured," said Judith Geho of Harford County, Md., minutes after the pope blessed about 300 handicapped people outside a Trinity College dormitory yesterday.
"She has -- I mean she had -- leukemia and doctors had given her a 50-50 chance of surviving," said Geho, tears streaming down her face. "The pope kissed her. It's like God said to us, if I could find a way to get her here and have her blessed, that would be the sign of her cure."
"I feel overwhelmed," she said. "This has definitely strengthened my faith."
Scores of handicapped people in wheelchairs and others on strechers lined up along a scarlet carpet unrolled on the lawn for the pontiff's arrival.
They had been chosen by their parish priests, who verified their illnesses and arranged for tickets for them and one attendant each. Most came from the Washington area, but some had traveled from as far away as West Virginia.
They waved yellow-and-white papal flags, clapped and sang "He's got the Whole World in His Hands" as the pope walked past huge pots of white and yellow spider mums.
Annette Albert, 85, a Washington native who lives in the Garfield Terrace senior citizens home, fidgeted with a brightly colored crocheted blanket over her legs as the pope inched his way toward her.
"If I could just shake his hand, it might make me a better person," she had told a reporter before the pontiff arrived. "The pope's visit is an inspiration and the most important thing in my life."
When John Paul II reached her, he smiled, shook her hand and passed on.
"I'm overcome with joy," Albert said. "If God's willing, he can call me home anytime now. I feel almost as if I had shaken the hand of Christ. It felt just that powerful."
Men and women cried as the pope made his way to them, shaking the hand of one, blessing another and kissing the children he passed by. Falls Church resident Betty James even got him to autograph her grandson's first communion book.
"My suffering brothers and sisters, I love you," the pontiff pausing during his circuit through the crowd. "My love for you is a special love. I love in you the suffering of Christ, our redeemer."
As a gentle rain began to fall, the pope offered a blessing in Latin and at the end, those gathered recited the Lord's Prayer and made the sign of the cross.
Mary Grady, who has been confined to a wheelchair for 22 years, traveled from Frederick, Md., only to find she could not get in without a ticket.
"I cried piteously," she said. "I felt sad."
But Grady joined a small group of handicapped persons who positioned themselves to see the pontiff as he left.
"At least I got here this far and that's pretty good," she said. "My parents, my grandparents never saw the Pope. And I'll never get to Rome."