Free Falling

A week later and I finally got the video and still pictures from my sky dive last week. Watching it again still took me to that point of nervous anxiety. It was weird to experience something and recount what was going through your head as it unfolds, and then to see if from on outside perspective as if I were a spectator. It’s like two different experiences of the same event. You cannot see the real anxiety one feels. Photos have an interesting property in that they can either enhance and create a forced perspective of who you are and how you experience events, or they can become a substitute for the experience. As a photographer I tend to never shoot personal experiences, family events, things I am involved in. Some how in my head I want to remember my emotional connection to the events. Perhaps when I am old and my mind begins to go I will end up regretting that I did make a greater effort to preserve some sort of historic record. This was an event that I did want recorded that I can look back and relive within the moment. Gary Sanders, who I jumped with, had both a video camera and a still camera that shot the entire event as it unfolded. I believe the still camera captured an exposure every 5 to 10 seconds

So here is what I remember: The sky was filled with clouds that seem to hang low. There were only a few patches of blue and the air was filled with humidity. I remember my mind racing the hour it took to drive to the Ronan Airport. I kept scanning the horizon, watching the sky that seemed to be filled with a brooding intensity. I kept catching myself speeding as if I was racing through time to get to that destination, but once I began to get closer to the site, a jittery nervousness began to overwhelm me. As I turned onto the airport road, it felt as if my heart was about to stop. I was the first one in my family there. Gary Sanders, the man who was going to take me on the jump met me outside as I pulled in. It turns out he works for the US Postal Service, and I told him I worked for UPS we joked about the two working in tandem. First and foremost I had to sign and initial 6 pages of waivers. As I began to read through the details, the anxiety mounted. I guess the serious repercussions of what I was about to do didn’t really hit until I was signing away all liability in worst-case scenarios. He jokingly said this would be the worst part of the day. Next he began to take me through the process of the jump, what I had to do, positions I had to maintain, and how to secure a safe landing. An unrealness began to creep in my mind and I was having a difficult time concentrating on what he was actually saying and I kept asking him to repeat his instructions. I didn’t want to miss any of the details, but I could feel a part of me beginning to shut down in my head, trying to come to terms with what I was about to undertake. My need to disassociate from the experience began to scare me. I am generally very connected to most things I do, and this was completely out of my character. Next was the process of dressing for the job. Flight suit, harness, cap, goggles. This offered some security, just because it stirred so much of the childish fantasy side of my mind that I was about to live a very cool adventure. I emerged from the building all decked out for my family to see. Suddenly it all felt all right.

I met the pilot and Gary walked me thought what we would be doing on the plane and the prep process of the actual jump, I am actually going to call it fall, because no actual jumping was involved. It was a small plane, barely big enough to fit the three of us, with only one seat for the pilot. The process would be for us to shimmy out the open door, to a step ledge, with our hand supported forward by the airplane wing support bar. Now I really know I was in for trouble. I was actually going to have to get outside of the plane to fall. We did some pictures on the ground, me with the plane. Said our good-byes, my brother having the strangest look in his eyes. We crawled into the plane and suddenly we were taxiing to the runway. Once we hit the runway, they closed the door, the engine whirred and suddenly we were propelled into the sky. It seemed to take forever to get to 9,000 feet. We went through the clouds and climbed above them. I got up on my knees to look out, again beginning to feel myself retreat deeper within. Suddenly we had reached the altitude and began to get into position. As the door opened, my breath was sucked out with it. The wind began to whoosh around me. My heart was beating so fast, I thought I was going to pass out. We began to step out on to the ledge, my stomach began to churn because I thought I was going to miss it, we shimmied out, the wind blasting into my face and body. The pressure was immense. I was supporting myself by the brace on the wing, Gary kept trying to get me to release and pull my arms back as we had rehearsed on the ground, but it was like I was paralyzed and didn’t know what to do. He pulled my one arm right arm back, and I could feel him tugging on my left, finally I just took a deep breath, my heart now in my throat and fell back. I saw the plane rapidly disappearing above me. I put my arms out and we up righted our position, the pressure on my face like I have never felt before. We were suddenly passing though a cloud and could not see the ground and had no real sense of falling.

Suddenly there was a tremendous jerk as the parachute opened and we began to drift out of the clouds. The drifting was euphoric. Suspended, I was finally able to pull my goggles up and enjoy the suspended floating sensation. I felt like I was weightless but I became aware of the pressure of the harness in my groin area. We practiced as landing and it all seemed like it was over before it had really begun. I saw my family on the ground watching me. We landed exactly where he said we would, though he said we were way off because of my reluctance to let go. As soon as I stood up I remember an uncontrollable laughter broke out through out my body. I could not stop. The experience was over and I had survived. It’s a mind-boggling experience and to face things in ourselves is remarkable to see unfold. It was the perfect way to celebrate my birthday. Would I do it again? Probably not. It was something to experience and confront within myself and don’t need to relive. I guess this is where the pictures are worth to capture. That night I slept like I have not slept in a very long time. I don’t think I will be having any more dreams of falling.

One thought on “Free Falling

  1. Pam Cyr Richards

    >You are very brave Terry Cyr! I remember looking at you right before we went outside and was thinking about asking you if you were scared, then decided it was poor timing and kept it to myself, you looked right at me and said YES! LOL I thank you for letting us share the day and live vicariously.

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