Blue Angels fly over South Florida in honor of front line workers


MIAMI (WSVN) - The U.S. Navy Blue Angels flew over South Florida to salute front line workers battling the coronavirus pandemic.

As a part of their “America Strong” series of flights with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds over cities across the United States, the Blue Angels conducted a South Florida flyover on Friday from 1 p.m. to 1:25 p.m.

The flight began in Boca Raton and went as far south as Homestead. The Blue Angels also flew over Jacksonville on Friday.

Operation “America Strong,” which will continue in other cities across the U.S., is meant to honor and show support to those fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and salute healthcare and essential workers.

Some nurses and doctors said their days have been longer and more intense. Patients are coming in with COVID-19, and they do not have their families there, so it takes a toll on the healthcare professionals.

Doctors and nurses still wearing their scrubs could be seen on the rooftops of multiple hospitals throughout the region to watch the Blue Angels’ salute.

“It’s been a difficult time for us, and we need all the encouragements to get through all the difficult days,” Kerry Cabrera, a Broward Health nurse, said.

“So amazing, it got me a little bit emotional,” a front line worker said.

“It’s stressful, but this is what we’re passionate about,” a second front line worker said.

During their flyover, the Blue Angels performed a loop over downtown Miami. The loop was visible from Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“Their smile is something to look forward to,” Arianna Lamosa, a front line worker at Jackson Memorial Hospital, said. “We’ve had a black cloud over us the last months.”

“It’s been difficult, but at the same time, we’ve managed to get through it,” Cassandra Johnson, a front line worker at Jackson Memorial Hospital, said.

At Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, 8-year-old Tommy Boegler, who is fighting kidney cancer, left the hospital for the first time since December to see the Blue Angels honoring those who help him every day.

“I feel happy for them because they save children’s lives of what’s going on in the world right now, the COVID-19, amazing, actually,” Tommy said.

However, doctors and nurses were not the only people watching the flyover.

Dozens lined up in Coconut Grove on a sea wall near Mercy Hospital, hoping to get a glimpse of the Blue Angels in tight formation.

“It’s a very nice gesture,” Betty Nahmias said. “We really appreciate it.”

Bryan Schaefer said the flyover was a welcome break from weeks of quarantine inside his home.

“It’s a little bit of a distraction from being inside all of the time,” he said.

People could be seen lining up on the MacArthur Causeway to watch the flyover in Miami Beach.

Kyle Luongo and his family did not want to miss the highly-skilled pilots. His wife and 4-month-old child watched the flyover from a parking lot in Tamarac.

“It’s a really cool experience to see them in that tight formation,” Luongo said.

“I thought it was a beautiful tribute to all the doctors and nurses and first responders that work so hard to keep us safe, risking their lives, and I just thought it was beautiful,” Dakota Degenhardt said.

The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds have already flown over various cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta and more.

They flew over New Orleans, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, Wednesday, and healthcare workers said they felt overwhelmed with gratitude by the salute.

“This means a lot to us,” said Houston nurse Ali Hamdan. “We don’t feel alone in this battle against COVID.”

“It’s just amazing to be honored for something that we do every day,” said Houston nurse Jenni House. “This is our job. This is what we all signed up for and, you know, we’ve been in the trenches these last six weeks. To get this level of honor from the Blue Angels, it’s amazing. It feels really great.”

“It’s emotional,” New Orleans nurse Patsy Nastasi said. “I’ve seen the Blue Angels before, when they did a whole performance, and they’re just awesome. I think that everybody just needs something to cheer them up right now. This has been a hard time for everybody.”

“For these pilots to be at the top of their game and they do what they do so well and, you know, it’s such a nod and an acknowledgment to our team here,” said Greg Haralson, a hospital administrator in Houston.

As soon as the flyover concluded, some of the doctors and nurses took a few pictures and had a conversation before reentering the hospitals to get back to work.

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