By now, you’ve likely heard all about the Make-A-Wish Batkid Day in San Francisco, and how 5-year-old Miles Scott saved Gotham City from crime. Jenny O’Connell was the flashmob coordinator that help setup the very special situation. Below is a telling of how the day went for not just an eyewitness, but someone directly involved. Fortunately for us, she just so happens to be a writer here. Enjoy.
There are thousands of people in Union Square, and they are all waiting on my cue. I’m waiting for Lou Seal, the San Francisco Giants Mascot, to get his large, loveably furry ass down to the garage. A newscaster from TV Brazil asks me to comment on what this day is about, and I look her straight in the eye. “It’s about hope,” I say. “All these people came out to help Batkid, but I think what’s really happening is Batkid is helping us.” It sounds cheesy but it’s true. I turn and run into to the crowd to find my banner-wielding volunteers.
A shiny black Escalade pulls up, and Lou Seal hops out, wiggles his sunglasses at the throngs of cheering people, and gives me a hug. I take him down to the underbelly of Union Square, where The Penguin is waiting to tie him up. “Does this make me an accomplice to a villain?” I wonder out loud. Lou doesn’t answer.
My life has taken a strange turn today, and I’ve found myself smack dab in the middle of Gotham City.
It all started a month ago when my cousin Patricia asked me to throw a flashmob for a Batkid Wish. Patricia stands at six feet tall (6’2” with heels), and her warmth, confidence and ringing laugh fills a room. She’s also the Executive Director of the Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation, and a hard woman to say no to. Not that I wanted to – this wish sounded awesome. Five-year-old Leukemia patient Miles Scott wanted to be Batman, and the folks at Make-A-Wish had planned a full days’ itinerary of saving the city. Patricia knew my background as a flashmob organizer. She already had 40 volunteers from Trip-It lined up, and I assured her I could get at least 100 more. Our job was simple: to alert Batkid through a dance during his lunch at the 6th floor Burger Bar that the Penguin had kidnapped Lou Seal and was getting away.
Over the next few weeks, more of the details unfolded: a damsel in distress! A heist by the Riddler! Mayor Ed Lee presenting the key to the city! Then, a week ago, I got a phone call from Patricia. “It’s gone viral,” she said. Boats with cannons, planes with banners, a special edition of the SF Chronicle, police, firefighters, FBI, rumors of Adam West making an appearance…the rest of the world had caught wind, and people were rising to the occasion. Johnny Funcheap from funcheapsf.com asked how many people I wanted for my flashmob. “Four hundred,” I said, feeling clever that I was capping it before it got too big. As soon as I sent out the instructional video and read the words “AT CAPACITY” on the Make-A-Wish website, it became clear to me that we would be dealing with a few more than 400.
The Penguin pulls up in a convertible with a bound and struggling Lou Seal. I high-five the henchman driving the car, and signal to my friend Joe, who presses play. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” fills the square, and a roar goes up from the crowd. Dancers do the wave, throwing their hands in the air for the little Batkid at the 6th floor window. We unfurl giant yellow banners reading: HELP US BATKID MILES!!! THE PENGUIN HAS LOU SEAL!!! And he does. Batkid, escorted by Batman himself, emerges from the building and climbs into what could be the first Lamborghini to ever have a booster seat in the back.
Together with a few Make-A-Wish staff members, I ride in the back of a police car to Civic Center. About 12,000 people are gathered to cheer on their hero, who is enthusiastically pumping his fist in the air. Speeches are given, tears are shed, and Batkid looks slightly bewildered as the Mayor hands him the heavy Key to the City and promises him another one made of chocolate.
Back at the Hyatt, heroes and villains alike are taking a break. The Penguin sits down next to Batman and they embrace and clink champagne glasses, and I swear I see a tear in his eye. He offers me a ride to the bus stop (he really is a lovely fellow). Batkid is nowhere to be found, but I meet a 5-year-old boy named Miles Scott who is dressed in a striped t-shirt and Giants hat. He is sitting on a woman’s lap who identifies herself as “Grammy.” “Miles!” She exclaims as she sees me approaching, “remember all those people who were dancing for you in Union Square? This is the woman who did that!” It feels odd to hear those words coming from a stranger, because there were so many superheroes involved in this wish, I don’t feel all that responsible for what happened in Union Square. Grammy takes out her phone and shows me a picture of Miles right after chemotherapy. “I didn’t like being bald,” Miles tells me. “It looks like you have lots of hair now,” I say. “Can I feel it?” Miles grins the same squishy grin that I have seen on posters all over town, and removes his baseball cap to reveal a full, perfect head of light brown hair. “What was your favorite part about being Batman?” I ask him. He holds up his arms to reveal two spiky bat cuffs.
Maybe Batkid saved Gotham City today. Sure, there were the heroic details: the damsels in distress, the feats of strength and acrobatics, the boat cannons and airplane banners. Batkid won the internet by causing so much action on the Make-A-Wish website, it crashed. Batkid was the number one trending feed on Twitter. Batkid got a personal salute from President Obama. But at the end of the day, all that really matters is that this boy in front of me fought and beat Leukemia, and in doing so spread hope around the World. And after all that, his favorite part was the Batman fisticuffs.