Falling for a Good Cause

Fifteen or so years ago, I had mentioned to my mother in passing that I’d love to try skydiving someday. I had thought of it many times, and what a great experience it would be. My mother, however, thought it was a horrible idea, and immediately launched into a sermon about how I had children now, and how irresponsible it would be to endanger my life like that and potentially leave them to be raised without their mother (with us Irish Catholics, guilt is a serious thing). So, I agreed with her guilt-reasoning, and shelved all ideas of doing any intentional risk-taking.

Then, one day a few months ago, I was perusing Facebook and saw that a former co-worker of mine was taking part in a charity event for a veterans’ organization called Heidrea for Heroes, in Plymouth. The challenge was to raise a minimum of $1,000 and then jump out of a plane (tandem-style) at Cranland Airport, in Hanson. Here was my chance to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. I could raise money for a good cause, and also finally experience skydiving. My kids are adults now, and there was nothing to hold me back.

Well, just one thing – I have an extreme fear of small planes. I’m not a big fan of flying in general, although I do it, of course, because there are places to go and people to see in this life. I’m a white-knuckle flier on large, commercial planes. The one or two times I’ve had to take twin-engine puddle jumpers somewhere, I was a wreck. Even thinking about going up in a tiny, noisy, fragile single-engine Cessna gave me months of anxiety. That’s no exaggeration.

As for the jump itself, I’d heard all the horror stories about people getting sick on the way down during a jump, or passing out, or wetting themselves, and I heard stories about how it was an absolutely amazing experience. I was desperately hoping for the latter.

After several weather delays, the morning of the jump finally arrived. I was nervous and excited, and just wanted it to be over. I was crammed into the tail of the tiny plane with my tandem partner attached to me by harness, followed by another jumper and her partner. (She was young and very excited and I selflessly offered to let her go first, if she wished.)

We had gone over all the moves we’d make once we exited the plane (hands across chest, hips forward, feet way back, etc.) as that tiny death trap and all its fumes climbed higher and higher. Every little bump in the sky caused me to reach out for some invisible handle I could hold onto, and sweat was pouring out of me from every pore (how embarrassing). I’ll give my tandem partner credit. He saw I was nervous and continued to try to distract me, pointing out this or that beautiful piece of scenery below, or chit chatting about nonsense and making me laugh (thanks, Reid!)

After a while, I began to breathe deeply, trying to remain calm, knowing it would only be a few more minutes. The fumes and the closeness of the plane were getting to me, and I began to feel claustrophobic. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. But the only way out was down.

When the door on the side of the plane finally flew open, the plane jerked and filled with cold, rushing air and, before I knew it, the young girl and her partner were gone. Then my partner was shouting for me to move toward the open door. We were sitting on the floor in that tiny plane, which was like the trunk of an old car, and I had to push with my legs to scooch toward the door (this took a little longer than I would’ve liked, as I’m not quite as nimble as I once was). I finally got my legs out the door and was waiting for a “3…2…1…go!”

There was none.

We were suddenly out the door and in the air, and all of the instructions he’d previously given me went, quite literally, out the window. I was falling out of the sky, waiting for my brain to catch up with my body, and trying to give a crazy smile and give a thumbs-up each time he pointed the Go Pro at me.

I will say, the freefall was my favorite part. It was scary and exhilarating and I could hardly comprehend all of the amazing scenery around me. Clouds, farms, land, trees … they were all rushing toward us, but my brain just wasn’t registering all that my eyes were seeing.

My partner pulled the rip cord and suddenly the parachute pulled us upward with a hard, painful jerk. I hadn’t expected it to hurt as much as it did. My harness dug into my armpits and between my legs and around my thighs, and stayed that way the rest of the way down. He offered me the loops to steer us around, which I did, before giving them back, telling him he can drive the rest of the way. I was in too much pain to really enjoy the moment.

Landing was easier than I thought it would be. When he explained that we’d be landing on our bottoms, I was skeptical, thinking that’s all my tailbone needs. But, as we came down and down and down, and then brought our legs up and skidded to a stop, with dirt and grass flying up into my face and mouth, I thought that could’ve been much worse. Not too bad at all. And I didn’t get sick or pass out or wet myself, so that’s a win, in my book!

Friends and coworkers have been asking if I’d do it again. My kneejerk answer is no. As glad as I am that I finally did it, I don’t think it was for me. But, as the saying goes, never say never.

About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo is the Marketing Writer and Lifestyle Reporter for CapeCod.com, and has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.

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