Your cast of characters: Me, Adam, and Elayna; katfireblade; kungfoogirl and her girlfriend J.
We set out at 8 AM. 8 AM! Only this could get me out of bed at 6:30 on a Saturday, man. By necessity, though, the skydiving place was way the hell out on the boonies. Rockmart, GA, to be exact. We drove for about an hour and a half to get there.
Things were minor-grade chaotic when we got there. It took a few minutes to find the paperwork to fill out. But we were soon entertained by the presence of many dogs. Oh, so many dogs. And we all, save for allergic Adam, love dogs. So there was much dog-cuddling as the place got together.
kungfoogirl with the Cutest Dog Evar - an eight-week-old Yorkie.
J. holding the puppy while Kat looks on and coos
There were nine Operation Freefall jumpers in total. We were told that we'd be going up in groups of three, at which point Kat and K-Foo and I grabbed each other saying "Us! Us!", and the guy laughed and told us okay - we'd be the first group up.
We were taken aside and given the lecture. Positions for exiting the plane and maneuvering in the air were demonstrated. There was much of the silent "holy crap". And when we were separated and strapped into our harnesses.
Yeah, these are not flattering pictures of me. Fuck it. I jumped out of a plane for charity. Today, I am a superhero. So are these girls...
So from there? The plane. katfireblade's tandem instructor decided she was going first, and it was decided that I was going last. I'd intended to ask if *I* could go first, but I nodded and went with it because I thought it was because Kat was nervous; Kat later said that going first made her *more* nervous, and she'd gladly have traded places! Ah well. :) So I clambered up into the plane, followed by everyone else.
There was a narrow little bench for us and our tandem guys. You can hear my little "woohoo!" on my video when I was instructed to straddle the bench. I kept my mouth shut for a minute or two after that. But yes. My tandem guy - me - K-Foo's guy - K-Foo - Kat's guy - Kat. Next to us, our videographers/photographers. In front of us, a few solo jumpers.
The plane took off.
This is when it starts to sink in - when we go from jokey to kinda quiet. The realization that we are now in the air and attached to people with parachutes and the time we have to back out of this is vanishingly slim and shrinking. It's been one thing to talk about it... but now, we are maybe five minutes away from actually jumping out of a plane.
At 5,000 feet, the first jumper goes. A solo jumper who's doing a straight jump with no freefall, just jump and pull the cord. The airplane door - looks like a clear garage door - rattles up. He maneuvers to the hole, the roaring wind.
He waves -
- and is gone, falling away so quickly that it barely registers.
I spent a month waiting for the nervousness. This is when it hits, when my belly says "Oh, hey now - can we talk about this?"
We climb higher. The tandem guys go over a few things last-minute. My guy walks me through deep breaths, reminding me that it will be difficult to breathe out there. I nod. I breathe. He straps on the cap he's lent me to keep my hair out of his face. My videographer asks if I have anything to say before I jump. I smile at the camera and say, "Elayna - this is you in seven years!"
We reach a height of 14,000 feet.
Fourteen. Thousand. Feet.
The door rattles up. One solo jumper. Another solo jumper.
Her guy maneuvers her to the door. Her video/photo guy climbs out of the plane and clings to its side, ready to jump with her and her tandem guy. She's leaning back, petrified. He asks if she's ready. She takes a deep breath, and yells "Yes!"
And they fall into the sky, and are gone.
K-Foo and I scoot forward on the bench. My heart is pounding, and I'm hoping to keep from peeing my pants. K-Foo gets maneuvered to the door on her knees. I see her and her guy nodding to each other, and -
I don't even say down, I say out, because that's it - I have no sense of direction from them. In a blink, in half a heartbeat, they are gone.
My guy scoots me forward on the bench, maneuvers me to the door. To the roar, the pressure of wind, an almost-inconceivable two-plus miles over the earth. The brain protests. No animal was meant to be here, and to drop...
I get in position, knees on the edge of the plane, but I can't get up on the balls of my feet as instructed, and this is suddenly Very Important.
"Are you ready?"
"My feet aren't -"
"That's okay. That doesn't matter. We're going to go now."
"Ready -" he rocks forward...
"Set-" he rocks back...
Forward, and I don't have to do anything, and there's nothing I could do; his body/weight/momentum/experience combine to carry us forward, and forward is out...