The Anniversary of My First Sky Dive
Six years ago this month I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane all because of a stupid night out drinking with my friends, and it is an experience I’ll never do again but I will never forget.
A couple of buddies and I were out having margaritas on a beautiful April day in 2001 when we decided the best thing we could think of to welcome spring would be to hurtle towards the earth at a breakneck speed. Everyone was really excited about it but I was sitting there thinking they were all insane. Two margaritas later I was high fiving and swearing I would do it too.
The night before our scheduled jump, I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about all the things that could go wrong and how I’d ultimately die from this stupid idea. The parachute might not work; I might not pull the chord in time; a bird could fly into my chute and knock a hole in it. Oh my god what if I was sucked into the exhaust of a passing plane?
Two of my buddies came knocking on my door the next morning insisting we leave for the airport. I was still trying to think of excuses to get out of it but they didn’t believe I had the flu.
We drove to Waller, Texas where Skydive Houston was located, about an hour into the Texas countryside. We were introduced to our instructors and shooed into a classroom where we had to watch a half-hour video about jumping, as well as fill out the forms that said if we died we wouldn’t sue.
I zipped up my blue jumpsuit and attached the harnesses that my tandem instructor Roger would use to strap himself to me. The videographer Johan came over and asked if I was ready. I was chomping my gum harder than Britney during that interview with Matt Lauer.
“Um, if I throw up, aim the camera in another direction,” I eloquently said.
The plane was on the runway and ready for us to get on. We climbed in and waited. We took off and I saw the ground change from grass and dirt to a patchwork of green and brown. We climbed above 13,000 feet and then it was time to go.
I watched both of my friends jump and then I was the last one on the plane. Johan was hanging outside the door waiting for me to walk over and jump out. When you’re standing in a doorway of a plane looking down, a feeling flows through you that is half petrified fear and half a sense of power. In my case it was an out-of-body experience. Even with the videotaped proof, I still have a hard time believing I really jumped.
The icy air rushed through my lungs so hard I thought I couldn’t breathe. My stomach was turning and my brain was asking me what in hell I was doing. When I opened my eyes I saw Johan floating in front of me with a camera. I hammed it up, blowing kisses and waving, giving a thumbs-up sign and screaming “Oh my god!”
The freefall lasted about 49 seconds but it felt like an hour. My lips were dry and I couldn’t feel my cheeks. Next thing I know, the chord was pulled and the fall was ubruptly stopped with the parachute opening. I felt like I was a human slingshot. Then there was silence.
We floated down to the ground, a trip that lasted about five minutes. I was completely out of sorts when I landed. I had this speech planned about what a humbling experience it was and how it made me appreciate life, but when the camera was shoved in my face all I could do was laugh and say, “That was awesome!”
Sometimes I look back at the things I’ve done in my life and thank God that I’ve lived through them, but also gathered enough strength somewhere inside me to be able to conquer feats I didn’t think I’d be strong enough to do. I am not as thrill-seeking as I was before, and I’m okay with that. Maybe I just don’t hang out with the same group of friends anymore. But of all the items on my list of things to do before I die, I have crossed off “Fall through a cloud.”
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