US military flew squadrons to pay tributes to coronavirus health care staff, first responders and other essential workers with a ceremonial flyover of COVID-19 epicenter New York City on Tuesday.
Twelve fighter jets of the air force’s Thunderbirds and the navy’s Blue Angels streaked across piercing blue skies above the Big Apple in “a collaborative salute” just after noon.
Dozens of residents gathered by the city’s harbor, squinting into the midday sun to catch a glimpse of the aircraft in what appeared a breach of social distancing guidelines.
The planes circled New York and Newark in New Jersey for 40 minutes, then headed to Trenton, also in New Jersey, before flying to Philadelphia for a flyover there.
“We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to salute those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 response, we are in awe of your strength and resilience,” Blue Angels Commander Brian Kesselring said ahead of the show.
The flypast took more than a month to plan and was the first of several planned around the country over the coming weeks, the squadrons said in a statement.
“An amazing display of gratitude and patriotism from the best pilots on earth. Thank you,” tweeted Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of University Hospital in Newark.
Other social media users tweeted that they thought the cost of the flights would have been better spent on personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses.