Welcome to the third and last part of my skydiving story! In the last part, I worried and worried about something that I shouldn’t have worried about – exiting the airplane. What I realize now is that these skydiving outfits will do everything they can to make sure you have a successful jump. So when I grabbed the bar to lift myself up and despite the adrenaline, I only pulled myself half way up, the jumpmaster pushed me the rest of the way. The wind still blew at 60 miles per hour as I held on to the airplane wing with a death grip, carefully sidestepping towards the edge. When I reached the end, I couldn’t believe it. I was underneath a plane at 3500 feet, crazy wind blowing all around me and holding on for dear life. Then I heard the jumpmaster say, “Go, go, go!” And I let go.
Free. For half a moment, I felt truly free. It was the single most delicious experience in my life. (Sigh.)
Then the parachute opened and I felt like I was on an airplane without the airplane. What I mean is, imagine watching an airplane slowly descend for landing through the tiny airplane window. Then imagine that same view but without the airplane. Sunshine beamed down on my face through the parachute cloth. I felt awesome!
Now I expected to be directed to the landing spot by the person talking in my radio. However, the other thing I now realize is that the skydiving outfit also wanted me to have fun so I would tell my friends.
In order to steer and navigate, a parachute has left and right toggles. When I pulled one of the toggles really hard, I spun around in mid-air.
“Wow, you’re so small and light, you’re really spinning out there!” said the crackly voice on the radio. “Do it again!”
I spun around again and again and again because it was fun. Then I saw something red fall down to the ground. It was my radio. I was on my own.
Panic. Sheer panic. I didn’t know what to do. Sure, I had a few hours of instruction but I couldn’t remember anything. I never expected to be on my own. When I looked around, I couldn’t see the landing field. Instead, I noticed the wind blowing me towards a power line and certain death.
Now this was something I remembered the instructor saying. “If you focus on a power line, you will head towards a power line.” And he was right! But this was a deer in headlights situation. I couldn’t stop focusing on the power line.
At that moment, I learned something about myself. At the beginning of this journey, I thought skydiving would be just a thrill, like a roller coaster ride. Then I went through all the instruction both boring and not so boring and I realized it would be a little more difficult than just sitting on my butt and letting the thrill happen. Now I realized, I could die from skydiving. But I didn’t want to die and that’s what shook me out of my trance. I pulled my left toggle, steering away from the power line and towards a farm.
I slowly descended, flying over plowed fields and startling a corral of horses. I spotted an open pasture and headed towards it. At about only 12 feet up in the air, I pulled both toggles simultaneously and landed.
Below is a picture of my report card for that day. By the way, the instructor marked Martha off for slipping on the step.