The 88-year-old patriarch of the McGrain family wanted to see the plane he flew as a bombardier/navigator in the European Theatre of World War II, but he isn’t going to be able to do so.
Joe McGrain and his wife, Toni, of Rochester, New York, were at the National Museum of the United States Air Force on Tuesday to see the B-26 he so badly wanted to show her and their two adult sons, Peter and Mark. It was a visit he longed to make for 50 years.
But when they arrived at the museum in the morning, they were turned away. The government shutdown forced it to close.
“It never occurred to me that it would be shut down,” Joe McGrain said, holding back tears.
“My plane is in there along with others that I flew in,” he said. “We met our son from New Orleans and our other son from Washington. I wanted to show them a little bit about Air Force history while I’m still around to do it.”
“My husband served in the service all those years and to come this distance and to have this happen … just is a shame; terrible shame,” Toni McGrain said.
The museum is the region’s biggest tourist attraction with more than one million visitors a year. All of the museum’s 95 federal civilian employees are furloughed, with the exception of three workers who are security personnel.
In October 2012, the museum had an average daily attendance of 2,087 visitors.
Joe McGrain called the experience a tremendous disappointment.
“We planned on this for a long time,” he said.