This whole thing started out as an article about Kari Barlow, Temple student and avid skydiver. Now I’m driving to New Jersey to try out skydiving for myself.
The closer I get to the Cross Keys drop zone, the more afraid I become. I was hoping it would rain so I could avoid jumping without looking like a wimp, but I’ve had no such luck. I couldn’t have dreamed up a nicer day.
I really might back out of the whole thing. Who does this? What kind of crazy people jump out of airplanes? I’m about to be one of them.
When I get to the drop zone, I start to feel better. Barlow and her boyfriend, Rob Stanley, an instructor at Cross Keys, are very supportive and calming. I meet Barlow’s friends. Jumping out of airplanes seems like such a normal thing for them. They’re so nice that I start to forget I’m supposed to be scared.
I sign my signature repeatedly as I go through the waiver. Now things start to get interesting. They strap me into some kind of tight harness and run through a five-minute training session.
The next thing I know we’re loading into a plane, called an Otter, and taking off. As the ground gets farther and farther away, I can’t stop smiling at how crazy this is. I don’t remember ever being this scared and this excited in my life.
Someone says, “Two minutes,” and Stanley starts to attach my gear to his for the tandem jump.
“Check it 500 times,” I say over my shoulder.
“Don’t worry,” he answers.
Things happen really fast after this. At 13,500 feet, or about two and a half miles, we jump. There isn’t any more fear, just amazement.
The 60 seconds of freefalling at 120 mph that follow is the most incredible experience. There are no words to adequately describe it. I look around and see Barlow and her friends falling next to me. At about 3,000 feet, Stanley releases the parachute and we float.
“You just risked your life to jump out of an airplane,” Stanley says.
“That was so stupid!” I answer.
“Yeah, but it’s better than being boring,” he laughs. He is so right.
He points out Philadelphia and Atlantic City, which I can see from the same spot. Before I know it, we’re landing.
The whole thing is over in just 10 minutes – it felt like 10 seconds. My first thought after touching the ground? Let’s go again.
Lena Kravets can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.