The Sky's the Limit For A Birthday Gift
Did you ever say in passing something that returned to haunt you? I had mentioned that, like members of my family who had skydived, that it would be something that I would try. Insanity has the means to bite you when others take you seriously!
For my birthday present, my dynamo daughter, who is all of five feet tall and weighs less than 100 pounds at 31 years of age, purchased my one-way ticket with video to jump out of a plane at 13,500 feet at Skydrive Long Island in Calverton. She and my son had jumped. She leaped without hesitation, performing head over heels twists for the fun of it while linked to her instructor. My macho son who was with her was too fear-stricken to do anything other than watch his sister as he left the plane.
I put off scheduling the jump for over a year. The gift certificate would expire by the end of June, so on Saturday, June 27 I drove to Calverton, Long Island to fulfill what my mouth had said, having never consulted my better senses. The sky was overcast on the drive to the field, providing some hope that the weather would prevent jumping. Of course, by 9 a.m. there was nothing but blue skies with high, puffy clouds.
I was introduced to my jump instructor, Bobby, who actually did this for the fun of it. He is a coronary nurse at Smithtown Hospital and jumps to relieve the tension. My obvious fear never concerned Bobby. In fact, I stated that he exuded confidence.
It may be of interest to those who may consider trying this "sport" to note that your introduction after signing a fourpage waiver is to watch a video. It begins with the attorney who wrote the waiver time and again stating that what you are about to try is dangerous, people have been injured, crippled and have died. Then he gets serious by peering through the screen and informing the listener that if you sue you cannot win, and if you do, you will be forced to reimburse the company for any damages collected and legal costs.
After I was placed in a harness, Bobby explained that we were to be linked together at four points with our bodies less than three inches from each other. This could have been fun if Bobby was not of the same sex. Bobby explained what was going to happen and what I was expected to do. Besides wearing Depends and showing up, I thought I did my part.
We were first on board a single-engine plane with eight free jumpers. Hard to imagine—people actually want to do this. Sitting next to the pilot, I observed he was wearing a parachute. I asked him why and was told it was FAA regulations. He then proceeded to tell me a person had to be crazy to jump out of a plane and that if his plane was on fire and the engine was dead he would ride it to the ground before he would ever jump. Very inspiring! How do I get off this thing without looking like the coward I am?
At 5,500 feet we were less than half way. Bobby strapped us closer while reviewing what we would be doing. At 13,500 feet the plane slowed, the door opened and the jumpers began to leap out. I was so rigid that I began to believe that this was all just a dream. Moving ever closer to the door Bobby and I waddled forward, tied together as one.
With my hands holding the webbing of my harness, Bobby rocked us once, twice and out of the plane. Holy Cow! I was falling! The wind froze my ears as we fell at 120 miles per hour. Looking down, the earth was a post card. Looking ahead, the world was glorious. From the air, all of Long Island was beautiful, surrounded by water with Connecticut just jutting into the Sound. I could actually see the curvature of the earth, bathed in shades of blue, and the sky was sparkling.
After what seemed forever, Bobby pulled the chute ripcord and we were jerked upwards by hundreds of feet. We began the descent while executing 360- degree turns. The ground was approaching at an easy pace and the ride ended with me sliding in on my butt. The relief I felt was liberating.
My daughter told me it would be a lifechanging experience. Perhaps. More so are the images that seem to linger just above my eyes wherein I see each and every moment of what at first frightened me and since returning to earth has kept me fascinated.
My co-workers, young guys with egos, having watched the video of my jump, discussed trying this. I have even said I wouldn't mind doing it again. With feet planted firmly on the ground, it is easy to say many things. I no longer know if it requires courage or stupidity to skydive. But I have yet to learn to consider what I say prior to considering the possible consequences.
Ed Horn is Director of Sales, Marketing and Community Relations at St. Michael's Cemetery, East Elmhurst.