Health care workers fighting COVID-19 watch flyover from Minnesota National Guard

Around 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers walked out of their hospitals and clinics in the Twin Cities metro to catch a glimpse of a special flyover dedicated to them. 

The flyovers were conducted by the Minnesota National Guard to honor health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The three-aircraft formation—a pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons and a C-130 Hercules—buzzed past medical facilities from Brainerd to Stillwater all the way down to Rochester. 

Abby Hatlen, a nurse, watched the flyover from atop the helipad at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale. 

“I think it’s just awesome to see all the support and the gestures from the community—a lot of love and support for the hospital and the Twin Cities as a whole, so it’s been great,” Hatlen said. 

Dr. Ryan Van Wyk agreed. 

“It’s a really cool honor,” he said. “The way flyovers are typically done, they’re meant to honor and memorialize things. It’s a nice tribute to those on the front lines of a global, a national, battle with the illness.”

Wyk is a psychologist in North Memorial’s mental health department, He is also a 16-year veteran of the National Guard, having deployed to Kuwait just last year.

“I guess the other thought is just one of gratitude, both for the military paying a tribute like that and just for what everybody in the community is doing to support the work that’s happening on the front lines with healthcare,” Wyk said. 

Wyk explained on the mental health side, the coronavirus has really changed everything with his patients, especially when it comes to fear and anxiety.  

“Just trying to cope with being cooped up, trying to cope with being unemployed or displaced from employment, disconnected from friends and families. Lots of challenges that come up,” he said.

As for the flyovers that excited and awed all ages, those are part of a nationwide U.S. Air Force initiative to say thank you and to single out the work of all the coronavirus pandemic’s front line workers, who are risking their health and well-being for others.

More flyovers are planned in the weeks ahead.