College years...who wasn't a little crazy? We were indestructible, weren't we? So skydiving wasn't that outrageous a thought. We were in the middle of Appalachia, one of the poorest parts of the country, with very little to do for entertainment. I always said skydiving was something I was going to do before I died and if I died doing it...at least I was happy on the way out.
I rounded up 8 friends and convinced them to skydive with me...although it didn't take too much convincing. Nine bored college kids doing something adventurous and dangerous. We were immortal, weren’t we?
Kentucky had the only skydiving school in the tri-state area…Kentucky? You mean there’s more to that state then just the derby? Skydiving and the Kentucky derby…that’s probably about it. Seriously…have you ever heard of Kentucky besides geography class in grade school?
We arrived bright and early, eager to put our lives into the hands of jump masters that we didn't know at all. We had to literally sign our lives away…I mean literally…”if I die…the school is not held responsible for my death”...an hour of paperwork...then ready for training for the next 6 hours.
Ok…we were there, ready to go, “give us your training facilities…we’re ready!” Nine doe-eyed novices waiting to be trained by 20 somethings who also had no clue what they were doing, but yet we put our lives in their hands with no second thoughts. Why??? Seriously…WHY?
We looked around for a sophisticated training center only to see what looked like someone’s backyard. So there we were, jumping off picnic tables to learn how to fall. Really? Two feet high picnic tables were going to prepare me for the 10,000 foot drop when I had to land with my parachute? I was going to learn how to roll on my ankles so as not to break my legs, or anything else for that matter…from a picnic table…getting me ready to have this G-force experience…and not die!?
Ok then…let’s do it!
After learning about packing our chutes and pulling the chord at the right time after 3 counts, and various other information that we would never use…we got into our very stylish jumpsuits and helmets. We followed the jump master to a plane that we assumed was for simulation purposes since the control panel was a magazine cut out. They explained where to position ourselves when getting ready to jump, one foot out on the strut and hands holding onto a bar on the wing. It was so exciting! He asked if we were ready and all nine of us couldn’t contain ourselves. We got into groups of three and decided who would be the first group to go. I volunteered because I couldn’t wait any longer and I also didn’t want to have any opportunity to chicken out.
“Where’s the plane?” “You’re on it!” WHAT?? This is it? You have got to be kidding me! “There’s no instrument panel.” “We have a key to turn it on…and a steering wheel…that’s all we need” OK…that makes sense…let’s go!
I went in a group with Ian and Mori. Ian was first, I was going second, Mori third. My heart was pounding out of my chest as we took off. I was astonished this thing actually could leave the ground. It looked like something from WWII. But there we were, flying high. Ian was getting ready to put his foot out on the strut…holding on to the wing…and then he froze. The jump master was yelling at him to let go and fall and he was not moving. Finally, the jump master and I both pushed him out and there he went…free falling. It was my turn next. I was out and gone within seconds because it was scarier to me to stand on the strut and look down than to let go and free fall for the whole 3 seconds before the chute opened. I had completely forgotten to even pull the ripcord…but luckily we were on a static line and everything was done for us. Had it not…I’d be a bug splat on the ground.
The wind in my ears…flying high above the corn fields…sitting in the harness…flying…there was nothing like it. It seemed like forever but it was only about 3 minutes…but those three minutes could never be compared to any other feeling in my life. Free falling…what an experience. Not a care in the world. Heaven.
Until I landed in a bull pen with a bright, red parachute and noticed a bull coming toward me. I did roll on my ankles correctly, thankfully, because it gave me my legs to run and get the hell out of there. I looked behind me…there was the bull coming at me and I hopped over some barbed wire, tearing the chute, while trying to get out of the harness and running for my life. Again, my heart was pounding out of my chest, but that time, was not because I was excited.
Luckily the people from the school saw where I landed and picked me up in a truck. I had landed about a mile off target…obviously not where I was supposed to land.
That was the last and only time I skydived. But I did achieve one of my goals in this lifetime, and an experience that can never be matched.