PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A Pensacola landmark reopens to the public just for a day. NAS Pensacola opened to everyone, not just Department of Defense employees, for the first time since the 2019 terror attack.
Before you can mingle and marvel at the machines, you first have to sit in your gas-powered machine–a long line of cars idled by the front gate as vehicles eventually made their way to the parking lot of the National Naval Aviation Museum.
“The coolest thing in there is the shop that I love and that my mom loves and my dad too,” said young Noah Weaden from Pensacola. Saturday also marks a chance for civilians and others to dig into a very important part of Pensacola and Naval history.
“The pride of our country and that the Navy does for our security, it’s just exciting to see the history of it,” said Beckie Johnson from Lynn Haven, Florida. Some are visiting Pensacola from hundreds of miles away and just happened to be in town for the brief reopening.
“Every little kid looks up and you see the planes that go by and it’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else and we’re here to take a look at everything,” said John Dages from Louisville. The museum and the base have deep ties to Pensacola and people feel a connection to this place
“I’m active duty Navy and my husband and I had our wedding reception here so it holds special memories for us,” said Jessica Miller from Virginia as she walked two children inside the museum. The base opened to commemorate World War II’s Battle of Midway.
“There’s a lot of energy I see a lot of smiling faces, the Blue Angel atrium is just packed with events,” said Director of the National Naval Aviation Museum Sterling Gilliam. They hope to bring that energy back. Gilliam says they had 500-thousand fewer visitors in 2021 compared to their last regular year of 2019. People in Escambia County and beyond hope the beloved NAS Pensacola can get back to normal soon.