I Jumped, despite the omens!
"I'M ALIVE!" Those 2 words are written at the top of my journal page on May 21, 1978. I wasn't just remarking that I'd survived my jump from a plane...but I had lived despite the 8 previous attempts which were halted by storms, wind, no-show instructors or other obstacles. It seemed clear, I was being given a message that I should not be attempting this silly endeavor, but I ignored it.
Smiling before the jump
My friend Mark snapped this smiling picture of me before I headed to the plane.
I was smiling with relief that I was finally getting this over with! Mark had jumped earlier in the day after we re-trained for 2 hours along with a crowd of postponed "first jumpers" who were all quiet and grumpy like me... from the stress of waiting.
For weeks I had been attempting to complete a one day class that would end with an actual jump. Why would I put up with a "school" that looked like a horse stable and had instructors who didn't care about your name...and sometimes didn't show up? I guess because I was a student with a dream and no cash. Webster College had a "Parachute Club" with some funds...crazy.
I waited all day for my turn...and then Channel 2 arrived!
It was late afternoon by the time my jump was scheduled. The early group got lots of attention. The first jumper had a crowd of students on ground squinting up into the sky. We waited to see that tiny speck of a person leap from the plane. Then we broke the tension with applause when the chute opened instantly. I was excited for Mark when it was his turn. I gave him a silly toy parachute man to stuff in his pocket for good luck and I congratulated him after landing. But as the day wore on, my enthusiasm disappeared. All my past confidence was replaced with concern. I just knew the winds were going to pick up and my jump would be cancelled. I decided if that happened, I would stop trying.
My good spirits returned when I was finally told it was time to go. As I headed towards the plane I was stopped by a news reporter who had just arrived from Channel 2. Besides Mark and the two guys I was jumping with, all the other students were gone. I had no big cheering group...but hey, I was going to be on TV, with an even bigger audience!
I was nervous enough about jumping without having to come up with clever answers about why I wanted to jump out of a plane. I don't remember what I answered. Something about overcoming a challenge. But I do remember that I laughed about my mother not knowing I was doing this. Early in the morning, I had scribbled an obvious white lie on a piece of paper for my mom. "I've gone to 6 Flags for the day!" (After 8 earlier attempts, Mom had begged me to not tell her anymore)
In the plane at last!
I climbed in last, after the pilot, the jump master and two other first jumpers. That meant I would be first out!
We stuffed into the tiny space like sardines and a moment later the plane roared and took off. I wobbled and my helmet clunked a couple other helmets. How could I be sharing such a huge experience with people I didn't know? But I suddenly relaxed. I didn't care about them, I just knew I was going to jump and I couldn't stop grinning. When the motor cut, my jump master flipped open the door. He motioned for me to scoot forward. I did, and felt my legs dangling as I stared down at the hazy fields below. I wasn't scared anymore, just numb. I was signaled to climb onto the platform and I remember the feeling of opposite magnets as I pushed my body against the air. The blasting wind was tearing at my cheeks and coveralls. Suddenly there was a slap on my leg and a muffled, "GO!" It was so fast...no time to think. It felt almost refreshing as I arched my back away from the plane....like falling back into a pool on a hot day. No fear, just a feeling of AT LAST!
Did it open?
I was so distracted by the blinding speed of falling that I forgot to count. But when I felt the sudden jolt of the chute, I did remember I was supposed to look up to be sure the chute opened. But I couldn't! Something was tight against the back of my helmet. Did it actually open? Then suddenly I was twirling, in a comical fashion as my lines untwisted and my head was finally free to look up and see those beautiful stripes on my open chute!
Twisted lines are much better than tangled lines!
A little interference!
I was so delighted to see the chute, I began hollering, "I can't believe it! I did it!" I kicked my legs in a giddy gesture, and grinned out at the view and soaked in the quiet, until the sound of my radio reminded me I was connected with a crew below, and they were probably laughing at me through their binoculars. "Pull down on your left toggle." crackled the voice. I nervously pulled the right. I didn't want to steer or listen. I just wanted to float.
Then a twangy woman's voice came over the radio. "This is Lady Bug here. Breaker 1-9. How's it lookin' over your donkey, Sweetie Pie?" All I could do was laugh. I'm sure the crew didn't know I suddenly had a better reason than giddiness for not following their instructions!
A Comical Landing
It was only fitting that I would have a less than perfect landing. In the air, I did remember to keep my feet and knees together and my eyes on the horizon. I hit the ground hard and fell. I don't think it was anything like when we practiced. In our training we spent a lot of time hanging by straps (like cadavers, my journal reads) and making perfect jumps into pits from our mock plane. But my real landing was clumsy and the chute behind me kept filling with air and trying to pull me backwards as I struggled to my feet. But I couldn't stop laughing and luckily Mark was there to snap a few photos as I clutched the parachute cloth like a prize!
I have never jumped again. I figured any other jump would be dull in comparison. But at some point I did make sure to dig out the old Barbie Diary list and give "Parachuting" a check!
BARBIE BUCKET LIST
I was 8 years old when I got this embarrassing Barbie diary ... about 2 years before my real DIARY YEARS. (12 years of never missing a day) I was more into Trolls than Barbie, so I stashed it in a drawer and forgot about it.
Over the years my family moved numerous times and this super mod diary ended up burried in boxes over and over. For at least 12 years, whenever I ran across it, I would grab a pencil and jot down something ridiculous on the corresponding day. It was like a never ending doodle pad, fillled with more nonsense than reflection. The penmanship and horrendous spelling makes it difficult to read today, but the best discovery is a Bucket List that began on April 27, 1974!
Click on THE BEGINNING to see the LIST and how it evolved.