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ah beach flyover 1PHOTO: Crowds gathered along the shore in Atlantic Highlands maintained physical distance from those not in their group.

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, The Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels began a nationwide tour today honoring first responders and essential workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Flights took place over New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

The “America Strong” tour started at noon in New York City and followed a flight path that took them over Newark, Staten Island and Long Island before heading off toward Trenton and Philadelphia.

ah beach flyover 4photo: View of the Manhattan skyline, 23 miles away, from the shore at Atlantic Highlands.

The teams will continue to other cities across the country, with demonstrations occurring every day or so, according to a Pentagon release.

“We’re excited to fly over cities across America as our way of saying thanks to the healthcare workers, first responders, and all the people who selflessly run into the breach working to keep America strong,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said in a release. “This is also our way of showing that we are all in this together and that America’s spirit will prevail.”

The two teams are urging people to watch the flyover from their home quarantine and maintain social distance guidelines.  Something easier said than done.

Large crowds filled the Bayshore area to try to glimpse the Delta formations of the elite pilots from 15 or more miles away.  People on the beach in Atlantic Highlands without binoculars squinted to see what looked liked blobs of white and blue.  At one point during their path over NYC, a vapor trail was visible making it easier to see where the jets were in the sky.  The teams traveled in a wide loop over Long Island before returning the Manhattan and traveling south over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge at 12:40 pm., heading away over the Raritan Bay.

Neither demonstration team has announced the entirety of the “America Strong” schedule.  The Washington Post, citing an internal Pentagon memo, listed at least 20 major cities across the country.

ah beach flyover 2PHOTO:  There are two blobs near the top of the image.  The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flying over Raritan Bay away from NYC. About 15 miles away.

“We are truly excited to take to the skies with our Navy counterparts for a nation-wide tribute to the men and women keeping our communities safe,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbird 1 and mission commander for the flyover. “We hope to give Americans a touching display of American resolve that honors those serving on the frontline of our fight with COVID-19.”

ah beach flyover 3PHOTO:  Families enjoyed the view and being outdoors near others.

See the pilots prepare for their mission and taxi to the runway.