A quartet of F-15 fighter jets swooped through Boston Wednesday to show support for medical workers who are on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The jets from the Massachusetts Air National Guard banked over Massachusetts General Hospital and other hospitals in the area and then roared up the Charles River, heading west, at about 12:20 p.m.
At the Ellison Building at MGH, about 20 nurses gathered on the rooftop by the hospital’s helipad to witness the flyover.
“This was terrific,” Caroline Morse, one of the nurses, said afterward. “It makes me proud to be a nurse and be appreciated in such a unique way.”
Tracey Garret, another nurse at the hospital, was on the rooftop with Morse when the fighter jets soared past.
“We are grateful that they honored health care workers this way. It is not something you usually see or expect, and it was very touching," she said.
People lined up across the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge to the Esplanade raised their cameras to record the spectacle. Dozens watched from the North Bank Bridge, a pedestrian bridge under the Zakim Bridge, expressing awe as the planes’ roar lingered several seconds after they passed. On Beacon Hill, a few socially distanced residents meandered to their rooftop patios to watch, with some applauding.
As part of Operation American Resolve, the F-15 Eagles from the 104th Fighter Wing took off from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield around noon and headed toward the eastern part of the state, the Air Force said in a statement. The jets flew over Hyannis and Brockton before they reached Boston. They then headed back west to fly over Worcester, Springfield, and Northampton.
Shannon Johnson, a nurse at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, watched the flyover with several of her health care colleagues Wednesday afternoon, touched by the gesture.
“The flyover today was amazing, and it shows how much support all of the nurses are getting from everyone,” said Johnson, who has worked in the emergency room at the hospital for two years. “The support and love we have for everyone in this hospital is unlike any other. I call the people I work with my family.”
“Seeing the jets felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we will forever hold this memory in our hearts,” said Melissa Hawes and Kathryn McMahon, nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in a joint e-mail. “This experience over the last few weeks has really brought the Brigham community together, and today was another example of our unity."
“The flyover was appreciated as a symbol of thanks to care givers and a nod to fellow service men and women getting care here,” said Lisa Manoloules, a nurse manager for hematology, oncology, and radiation therapy at the Jamaica Plain VA Medical Center. “We all enjoyed it together during chemotherapy today. I was delighted to have our veterans and staff together witnessing the moment.”
In a tweet, Governor Charlie Baker expressed his thanks to the Massachusetts Air National Guard for the kind gesture toward health care workers.
“Thanks to the [the 104th Fighter Wing] for saluting our front-line heroes with an F-15 flyover over health care facilities across the Commonwealth today,” Baker said in the tweet.
Social media posts from Central and Western Massachusetts indicated that the jets arrived west of of Boston in a matter of minutes.
The flyover by the jets was a “very rare” event that happens only once or twice a year with approval from the Air Force, said Senior Master Sergeant Julie Avey.
“It’s important for us to say a big thank-you to those who are serving on the front lines of this pandemic,” Avey said. “It’s important to unite us and show our support for the American public and that we are ready to serve and defend.”
The flyover also comes as part of a mandatory training to keep aircrews qualified, officials said. There is no additional cost to taxpayers.