This article is part of the [In Your Words] series. These are real stories, written by real people, who have made a tandem skydive at Chicagoland Skydiving Center. Our goal is to shine light on the many reasons people choose to jump out of perfectly good airplanes. Want to share your story? Email us!
It was 16 years ago, but it still feels like yesterday. All I know is I need to do it more. My first jump was in August 2000, and had a lot of reservation "jumping out of a perfectly good airplane" but knew it was an experience I would regret NOT doing. So fear be dammed, I showed up early.
When you make your first jump, the trip starts in the hangar. After talking to the crew, I was assured what had to be done to save our lives would be done to the fullest extent. That's what keeps the customers coming back for more.
Even with a brefing for what to expect, it's still a mystery in a way. When you jump, you're attached to a tandem jumpmaster and you'd think that would be on your mind the whole time. But then, you find yourself at the plane doorway. And you jump. And your mind is immersed in what's in front of you.
You're doing 120 miles per hour. It's surreal. You can turn and spin and see for miles. I remember as I looked around, I noticed objects appearing bigger. I wondered, am I racing towards earth or is the earth speeding up to meet me?
Toe grabbing with the cameraman was the part of freefall that has stuck with me most all these years. He flew in front of us, reached his leg out, and I pinched his toe as we spun in circles. It was real human flight. I was having good old fashioned fun at 7000 feet, which will always be deeply memorable. Lighten up and enjoy it was all I could do from there.
And Then, Peace.
After the parachute opens, things slow down both literally and figuratively. You hold the control toggles and perform twirls and turns -a true 360 degree view of the world- and it changes every second. Buildings, sheds, open fields, streets, cars, and eventually people come visible. It's like returning to life as you knew it before. Within seconds, you're doing a gentle jog on Mother Earth watching your parachute flutter and land behind you.
Eight different emotions in less than a minute. Makes you feel empowered, courageous, and ready for the next challenge. Which will certainly be NO MATCH for what you just accomplished. Why would you miss out on that?
There's only one way to get that deep-in-your-gut feeling, and that's to show up and immerse yourself in the experience that is skydiving. Talk to everyone you can see, you'll find that all walks of life bring people to dropzones. The trip starts in the hangar. And I'm here to tell you, it's an experience you truly never forget.