Friday, August 03, 2007

Watch That First Step

Never let it be said that I'm not willing to try new things…

I have a friend who is going through a Divorce and she asked if I would be willing to go skydiving with her. The jump was set for yesterday and what follows are my impressions…

They kept us on the ground for 4 hours waiting for our turn to jump. We watched as they ran flight after flight of jumpers up. They had this down to a science and I would say they ran a flight of about 8 jumpers every 40 minutes. These guys must be making a fortune out of this gig! Funny, but in all the time watching I never really got that nervous about the upcoming jump. I have never found myself afraid of death, but it's interesting to be put in the position to really consider the possibility.

We boarded the plane and began an ascent to 2 miles, where the jump would begin. As I look out of the small plane (at the earth getting smaller below me) I begin to feel a little fear creep in…there's no going back now and the gaping door at the back of the plane seems like the last place where I would want to be. The Jump Leaders keep us all talking (I'm sure this is to keep the nerves down) and the flight up seems to take a lot less time than the 20 minutes that actually passes. We are strapped to our jump partners (you are not allowed to jump alone on you first jump) and we begin to approach the jump door. My friend is immediately ahead of me and as I crouch in the door, I watch her fall from the plane. There is the briefest moment of panic as I look out at the earth miles below me and realized that I am about to jump; I am not afraid of heights, but the idea of having NO MEANS of support is a little daunting. Still, there is much for me to remember and the moment passes very fast.

I leap from the plane and begin to freefall. The freefall lasts about one minute, but what a minute it is!!! I am falling at 120 mph. We have people taking film (as this is our first jump) and my cameraman catches me by the hand and sets me into a spin. I enjoy the spin and find that my brief fear has totally left me. I am in awe of this experience and just wish the freefall could go on. I read the altimeter and realize that it's time to pull the chute. I pull the cord and wait for the chute to open (it takes a few seconds). Suddenly, I am pulled back hard by the four connection points to my jump partner; my legs swing wildly below me and it feels as if I am actually climbing again after the feeling of falling that preceded. Now I have time to get a look around and enjoy the jump. I can see the skyline of Philadelphia in the distance and the cars far below that are on their way to Atlantic City. The ground below me is a patchwork of fields and woods. My jump partner asks if I would like little speed and when I answer in the affirmative, he puts us into an angle where we face directly to the ground and begin to spin in a corkscrew. I can again feel the strong wind on my face and am enjoying the sensation as the ground rises up to me. Before long, we are preparing for our landing and I can see the zone about 50 feet below me. I am now concentrating on "sticking" my landing and am surprised by how quickly the ground comes up to meet me. I raise my feet in front of me and keep my legs close together (to protect the ankles from breaking as I hit). The landing is smooth and I am almost giddy with the whole experience. I remember saying to my cameraman (who filmed my landing) that I need to do this again SOON.

My friend enjoyed the jump as much as I did and we are planning to jump again in September (after the summer rush has calmed down). I'm not sure how many of you have ever considered skydiving, but I'd say it's something everyone should experience at least once in their life…I'm sure glad I did it!

Best! Norm.


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