The U.S. Navy Blue Angels flew above North Texas on Wednesday in a thunderous salute honoring health care workers and first responders on the front line of the fight against COVID-19.
It was perfect viewing weather, too, with sunny skies and mild temperatures across the region.
The six McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 Hornets circled their way from McKinney to Allen, The Colony, Plano, Richardson, University Park, downtown Dallas, Duncanville, Grapevine, Keller, North Richland Hills, Arlington, downtown Fort Worth and Saginaw before ending at 11:35 a.m. in Benbrook.
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The medical centers included in the flyover were:
- Baylor Scott & White – McKinney – (U.S. 380)
- Texas Health Presbyterian - Allen (southwest side of 121/75)
- Baylor Scott & White – Centennial (SRT 121/Coit)
- Baylor Scott & White – Frisco (DNT)
- Texas Health Presbyterian – Plano
- Methodist Richardson Medical Center (PGBT)
- Medical City Dallas (Forrest Lane)
- Baylor Scott & White - Dallas
- Methodist Family Health Center - Charlton (Redbird Area)
- Methodist Dallas Medical Center (I-30)
- Dallas Hospital District: Parkland/Dallas Children’s/Scottish Rite/UT Southwestern (35E)
- Medical City Las Colinas/BSW Las Colinas (114/PGBT)
- Baylor Scott & White – Grapevine (114)
- THHM – Southlake (114)
- Medical City Alliance (287/35W)
- Texas Health Harris Methodist Hurst-Euless- Bedford (121/183)
- Texas Health Arlington Memorial (Cooper/Randal Mill)
- Medical City Arlington (Mayfield/Matlock)
- USMD Hospital at Arlington (I-20/Matlock)
- Ft Worth Hospital District – JPS/BSW/ THHM/ Cook Children’s
- Texas Health Harris Methodist – Southwest Ft Worth Complex – (Chisholm Trail/Oakmont in Benbrook)
Medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, the Blue Angels' 10th stop, gathered at a social distance on the roof of a hospital parking garage -- many of them wearing colorful capes.
“Because nurses and physicians are superheroes,” GeTonya Dickerson said with a laugh. “This day is very special for me.”
Just after 11 a.m., the medical heroes craned their necks to the sky and took in the moment the Blue Angels flew over downtown Dallas to say "thank you." The crowd cheered.
“To have heroes like the Blue Angels honoring us is just, it’s very emotional for us,” Methodist Dallas Director of Nursing Amy Mabry said. “This is what they are called to do, even in the hardest time, taking care of our sickest patients and they are proud to do it.”
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After a few minutes' break for blue sky, fresh air and a collective thank you, the Methodist Dallas staff went back inside to work.
“We are all praying to see the end of this,” Methodist Dallas Transplant Coordinator Yoan Sanchez said. “And for all Americans to be able to go back to their normal life.”
After Methodist Dallas, the Blue Angels flew over hospitals in Grapevine, Arlington and other Tarrant County cities, before they made their way to Fort Worth's hospital district.
Several workers stepped outside the walls at the JPS Health Network’s main campus to observe the salute.
The moment brought Shelly Cochran, with JPS outpatient wound care, to tears.
“I’m just so proud that they came for us. We really appreciate it. It was wonderful,” Cochran said. “We’re family and we’re proud to be here to help the community and we feel so appreciated.”
As of Wednesday, John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth was treating 74 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.
As health care professionals, they’re used to taking care of people on a regular basis. But in the age of the novel coronavirus, Cochran said they now find themselves doing the same for each other.
“We’re taking care of each other. We’re very comfortable and we’re good,” she said. “We’re going to get through this, and we’ll all be fine.”
Though the jets' flight over JPS only lasted for a few seconds, registered nurse Cindy Putty said those kinds of gestures do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
“Anything like this really brings joy to our hearts and it helps us move forward step by step every day,” Putty said.
After the flight over North Texas, the precision flight team headed to Houston and New Orleans to salute front line workers in those cities.
The Blue Angels asked North Texans to keep with social distancing guidelines while viewing the flyover.
Three Texans are among the 16 officers on the Blue Angels team: Lt. Commander James Haley, from Canadian, in the Panhandle; Major Frank Zastoupil, from Kingwood; and Lt. Brian Abe from Richardson, who is the crew maintenance officer.
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“I’m proud to partner with the Navy to bring the Blue Angels to Fort Worth, showcasing our community’s deep appreciation to the brave doctors, nurses, first responders, and essential workers on the frontlines of our nation’s fight against the coronavirus," U.S. Rep. Kay Granger said in a statement Monday announcing the flyover. “These are unexpected, unprecedented times, but I know our community and country will emerge stronger than before. I’m proud to bring this display of national unity and support for those keeping our communities safe to Texas 12."
The Blue Angels last week flew over Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City.