For the longest time a jump out of an airplane has been on my bucket list. Last year for my big “0” birthday it did not work out because “prevailing adverse circumstances” somewhat prevented it. This year however I said to my friend Richard, x%$@#&x**! it, let’s do it.
[vimeo width=”550″ height=”350″]http://vimeo.com/26645588[/vimeo]
And so it was that on my recent birthday we went to Skydiving Chicago in Ottawa, IL to face our inner demons. And face them we did.
Honestly though, the week-long anticipatory anxiety preceding the jump was probably more nerve-racking than the actual experience. Why? Because without a reference point I really did not know what to expect, all left to the imagination. Yes, one can somewhat picture what it might be like, but actually and physically, I really had nothing to go by.
Once you sign all the waivers about not pursuing legal action in case of malfunction of the equipment, including the airplane, or the mistake of your instructor who is a subcontractor to the firm…somebody actually said to me: “Imagine your instructor passes out in flight…” (honestly, that was the last thought on my mind) …the reality of what one is about to do starts to come in. And that is a gradual process as you inch your way to the door over the course of the next several hour wait (if you jump, go during the week…).
I left the instruction class behind thinking, they really want ME to pull the cord at 6000 ft? Well of course. Would YOU entrust your life to a stranger…? Hhmmm, yes, actually in this case I would, because if we go down, we go together…
People say “statistically, you have a better chance of being killed driving to the dropzone than being killed in a skydiving incident”. How true is that?
Well, in 670,707 tandem jumps between ’91 – ’96 there were 8 fatalities (one for every 83,838 jumps). Between 1999-2002 worldwide, less than one fatality for every 420,000 jumps made, and in the U.S. only, one fatality for every 540,000 tandem jumps. So what are the odds? Truly. In comparison, in a recent year over 140 people died scuba diving, 856 bicycling, over 7,000 drowned, 1154 died of bee stings, and 80 by lightning. In 1982, 43,990 people were killed in highway accidents, 1,171 boating fatalities, 235 airline deaths, and 1,164 light aircraft general aviation fatalities.
So I guess you make the calculation. To me it seemed that the benefit of the experience, coupled with an opportunity to overcoming some pretty real and steep fears on different levels within my psyche, not to mention the symbolism of the occasion, in view of recent life events, made it clear to me: I need and want to do this.
My brain and body went into complete system overdrive when I knelt in the twin otter’s door opening, having just seen my dear friend fall into thin air, looking down 13,500 feet, feeling the 30 or so degree difference in temperature. Shellie the photographer climbed outside and before I knew what was happening, Jacob my instructor counted off: one, two and… three became a blur. I remember seeing the plane above me as we were falling on our backs looking up, thinking wtf…? And then over the next few seconds I just let go, completely go. That was an incredible feeling and sensation that is not comparable to anything else I had experienced. Yes, windsurfing in 60 mph gusts on Padre Island, flying in a stunt plane or going 120 mph on my motorcycle come close, but only close.
In the video you see Shellie the photographer and videographer of this video clip giving us a good spin…holy cow, as if enough wasn’t enough… And then, after dropping at 120 mph for about 25 seconds (you fall about 1000 ft. every 4 seconds) the swoooossh of the parachute is a very, very welcome sound. Jacob said: “Well, thank God that opened…”Amen, second that.
We circled for about 3 minutes or so which gave me somewhat of an opportunity to take in what I was in the process of actually doing before landing safely on the ground. It took me a good 15 minutes or so to integrate what we had accomplished.
In closing I can say that if this is something that has been on your list of things to do, you ought to do it. It is one of those incredible experiences in life that one needs to feel, words and pictures come only remotely close.
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