Gravity, Part II

Mark Archibald's picture

Manager of Finance


Gravity, Part II

It’s early. I’m no stranger to it; I’m an early riser these days. But I’m especially tired today…..didn’t sleep well the night before in anticipation of what we’re going to do today.

Driving along, no worries in the world except maybe, is Corrinne freaking out? Is she going to make it through this ordeal? I’m sure she’ll be fine. We’re close, I think I see the entrance. Yup, that’s it….holy shit….this is going to happen. We’re here, there’s no turning back.

“Ari, Liz, Corrinne, Phebe, and Mark, please report to the front to meet your tandem jump instructors.” Woah, here we go. We make our way to the board to figure out who we’ll be paired up with. I’m with Alex, Corrinne’s with Luciano, Mom’s with Richard. I hope Richard will give her a smooth landing. I’ll have to check in with him to be sure.

Gearing up – I’ve got my blue jump suit on. I’m feeling like I should be on the side of the road with a chain on my leg, picking up trash. The harness fits pretty snug but I don’t feel like it could be snug enough.

We’re climbing. It’s partly cloudy, pretty warm and the wind is a few knots. It’s a nice day for a jump. The climb to ten thousand feet this morning is slow. I don’t have much to say to my instructor who is behind me. I can’t help but keep looking up to my mom. I’m checking for signs of stress although if I catch a glimpse of any such thing, there’s really nothing I can do. She’s too far away and the roar of the engine is far louder than I can compete with. I think she’ll be fine though, she’s far tougher than I am.

It’s time! The garage type door on the side of the plane has been opened and one of the camera men has partially climbed out. Ari and his instructor are positioned and ready to go. Then, without any hesitation, they disappear. I thought I had come to terms with the adventure I’m about to embark on however at this moment I truly realize it. My heart drops at about the same speed as Ari left the plane. Mom moves into position next….then she’s gone, then Liz.

The last words I remember my instructor saying is instruction to give my wife a goodbye kiss. I do so, then we move to the door of the airplane. As I look over the edge of the opening, I see the ground in the same fashion as I had seen several times back in flight school. It’s the same, silent and motionless with mostly green shapes, partially obstructed by the thin cloud cover. Yes, I had overlooked this scene hundreds of times. The peaceful sight provides an overwhelming calm throughout my body. I’m ready to do this. Then we leave the plane.

The wind beats against my face like I’ve never felt before. I imagine the plane above us getting smaller as we descend away from it. The transition between being in the controlled, safe environment of the airplane to the free and unattached state of free-fall was flawless. Any of the fears that I had built up in my head completely and almost instantaneously escape me. I’m flying.

The fall lasts about a minute. To me, it feels just that. Sixty seconds can go by pretty quickly, however a lot can happen in that time. In this case, about eight thousand feet happens. The sensations I experience are indescribable. The shapes on the ground are slowly growing larger, but it doesn’t bother me. The air hitting my face at 120 miles per hour is pushing my goggles up, nearly rendering them useless, but it doesn’t bother me. At this point, I’m not even worried about whether the chute will open. The drop has rendered me worriless and free, without a care in the world. This is like no other feeling I’ve experienced.

With one body jerking motion, our chute deploys and the free fall is over just like that. Alex asks how I’m doing, but I’m at a loss for words. I’m still taking in what I just experienced. I’m only able to muster up the word “incredible”.

Over the next several minutes we float slowly through the last two thousand feet. I have a short burst of worry until I located both my wife and my mother’s chute below me. After that I enjoyed the relaxing descent down through the clouds. Now I don’t remember much of the discussion Alex and I had on the way down, I was in a state of bliss.

As we move closer to the ground I begin to make out the faces moving about. I see Corrinne’s red jumpsuit, then I pick out mom’s navy blue suit. They are moving around with big smiles on. I can remove the fear of their safety from the back of my mind and concentrate on my own.

My job is to hold onto my shoulder straps and put my feet up. That’s easy enough. Alex will do the rest. I imagined this would be the second scariest part of the trip, next to the departure from the plane, but I’m calm. The speed in which we’ll arrive on the ground will be a little under 10 mph almost vertical, nothing to worry about. As the detail of the earth becomes more and more clear through my eyes, the thoughts in my head are not of walking on the ground but flying through the air. This adventure is almost over. Fifty feet, twenty five, ten… feet are up and shoulder straps secure. I slide on my backside to a halt. We stand up promptly. Although my body has tested gravity like it’s never done before, and gone way outside of its comfort zone, my legs are back on the ground. The adventure is over and I’m alive to tell my story.

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