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 Category:  General Non-Fiction
  Posted: October 18, 2019      Views: 105

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Free falling from a perfectly good airplane
"Jump Seat" by Brett Matthew West

Though I do not consider myself to be the world's bravest thrill-seeker, I also would not claim to be a Nervous Nellie. Three days prior to this excursion, I casually mentioned to some acquaintances I was going skydiving. The reality of that fact had not settled in yet.

Then came the morning of my trek, and right on time a healthy touch of nerves kicked into high gear. After all, can you tell me what is natural about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane and free falling from the sky? To most sane minds, mankind is not supposed to be able to fly.

Skydiving is not that dangerous, at least according to the United States Parachute Association. They have logged one fatality for every 250,000 jumps in 2018. This allowed them to state 2018 became the safest year on record for this particular activity. These numbers did not concern me too much, as long as I avoided being a statistic.

My tandem instructor was Jacob Griswald. He assured me he had more than 22,000 jumps under his belt. His experience boosted my confidence. As the time to board the plane for our adventure approached, the situation readily grew real as I zipped my jumpsuit together.

For posterity's sake, my death-defying stunt would be videotaped by Ryan Cribatters, who conducted a short interview with me on tape.

"Let's have a blast!" I told him. "Maybe, I'll even write about this little escapade when it's over. Being a freelancer does have its perks."

Secretly, what I wanted to say was, "I hope I don't die."

We approached the Cessna twin-engine prop with a confidant gait. Once aboard, we began our ascent. At a height of 5,000 feet, I started to consider how a baby robin pushed from the nest for the first time might feel. As we gained altitude, Jacob secured his harness to mine in four strategic locations.

I watched other jumpers participate in what in the world of skydivers is known as a "hop-n-pop". This is a low-altitude jump that offered minimal free fall time. They reminded me of floating ants hurling through the sky. My time was coming. At 13,000 feet we draped our legs over the edge of the jumpers' bench and out into the open blue sky. The put up or shut up show began.

Away we went on the count of one...two...three! I noticed a frigid tinge to the air as we reached a speed of 120 miles per hour in free fall. It was fast enough to make my skin pull back and flap.

Although yelling seemed to help, I could not breathe as well as I do on solid ground. The rushing wind also prevented me from hearing Jacob's instructions on our downward spiral.

My initial thought was, "Holy s___! I really did this."

I became awestruck as we descended through the clouds. Ryan soared around us with his camera and captured the evolution of my jump. We had a load of fun. About sixty seconds into our fall, Jacob yanked the cord and our speed decreased. I was glad to see the canopy above our heads deployed as it properly should, and we floated safely down to the ground.

My heart raced and a massive wave of relief settled over me. My theory about skydiving became people need to live life while they are able to do so. I also believe to live in the fear of dying is a rather poor outlook. Guess what, in spite of what you do, death is imminent. We are all going to experience the sensation.

Perhaps it is on the edge of death where a person feels most alive. That is where the biggest rushes of excitement thrive. Would I skydive again? Unquestionably. I also have an eight second ride on the back of a 1,200-pound exploding package of dynamite called a snorting Brahma bull, I want to experience. That is another item to one day cross off my bucket list.

I never have been wrongfully accused of being mentally stable. So, who knows?

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