Ahead of the National Warplane Museum’s Operation Thanks From Above II, Heather Griswold and Amy Simmonds, both nurses at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center in Cortland, tested patients at the hospital’s outside COVID-19 testing center.
It’s something they’ve had to do many times and had been thanked for — but not with a flyover — until Saturday.
“We’re excited that we’re being acknowledged,” Simmonds said. “They don’t have to acknowledge us. We go into this profession knowing full well what we are getting ourselves into but we’re happy people appreciate what we do.”
The flyover, which consisted of a Douglas C-47 Dakota and P-51 Mustang — both planes used in World War II — served to thank frontline workers like Griswold and Simmonds, said Todd Cameron, the museum’s director of flight operations, on Friday. The planes started their journey at the museum in Geneseo before flying over hospitals and medical centers across Central New York.
The idea for the event came as a way to show thanks for the sacrifice, service and support frontline workers have to do daily during the coronavirus pandemic, which are the same values those serving in the armed services have to make, Cameron said.
“We thought, what a better way to honor those values with a flyover,” he said.
The first Operation Thanks From Above took place on May 16 in Western New York, covering Buffalo, Niagara and Rochester.
The museum then decided to host another one to cover the Southern Tier and Central New York.
“Our goal is for people to sense the gratitude we’re trying to convey and get outside and enjoy the day while being responsible with distancing when going to watch us,” Cameron said.
Based upon the reactions of those gathered at Cortland County Airport, they did.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful and I personally love the old planes,” said Alice Cody, of Groton.
She said she liked the planes for their part in history.
The C-47, named Whiskey-7, was a lead plane during the second wave of planes on D-Day, which took place exactly 76 years ago Saturday, Cameron said. It dropped paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division over Ste. Mere-Eglise. A year earlier, it served with the 12th Air Force in Italy.
The planes, which arrived after visiting Norwich, circled over the airport twice before making their way to Freeville, then on to Ithaca.
“I thought it was awesome,” said Howard Seamans of Locke.
As the summer, and the pandemic, progress, Griswold said nurses like her will watch for any new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and watch the response to the pandemic in Australia, which has seen very few cases of the virus.
“We really don’t know what the next couple of months are going to bring but we’ll be here for the community,” she said.
Her advice in the meantime? Keep washing your hands and maintain social distancing.