|| Re: The fatalities---my own tale|
||Fri, 23 Jul 1999 22:42:40 -0700|
||debonair (deb henry)firstname.lastname@example.org|
In 1983 I made my first jump. In August that year the Lodestar crashed and
many local jumpers and friends died still trapped within it. It was my first
real experience with death and the enormity of losing so many people at once
was almost overwhelming. There were jumpers who survived who never jumped
again, and others who weren't there but for whom the sport would never be
the same, so they quit too.
In 1985 after working manifest for several years I started jumping again. In
1987 with 186 jumps I was on a 4way and watched a friend get wrapped up in
his horseshoed lines, fire his reserve into the functioned main on his back
and fall to earth fighting all the way. I was across from him in the
skydive, we had eye contact as he was diving down to us, and he saw me look
past him as the bag and lines lifted up and out of his container. He had 86
jumps and I was the experienced jumper on the load. His eyes asked me,
"what's happening?, what should I do?" I was close enough to be afraid of
getting caught up in the lines snaking around his body. I am certain he saw
the fear in my eyes mirror his own. I wanted to help, I was screaming to him
mentally and I knew as he reached for his reserve handle it was all wrong -
he couldn't hear me, and it was too late. It was over, but it really wasn't,
but it was. And then it REALLY was.
Jumping again was something that I knew I had to do quickly if I was going
to it at all. I was afraid to pack my own main, I couldn't remember the
proper way to do it. I was afraid to freefall, I wasn't sure I could
maintain altitude awareness. I was afraid.
I was fortunate. I had friends who hugged me, who supported me and who held
me stable for several jumps before I could relax in the air again. One of
the other jumpers on that fatal 4way stopped jumping that day. One of the
people who helped me keep jumping hasn't jumped in years. I am still here. I
am still jumping. I am a survivor.
My first jump instructor told me that if I kept with this sport I would see
people die and they would be my friends. The community is too small, it is
unavoidable. I have lost many, too many friends and yet I keep jumping. I am
not ready to die, I am not ready to stop living. I have to keep jumping
because it is part of me, a defining part, something I cannot separate from
breathing. Some years I jump more, some less. But I keep jumping. In 1998
when my daughter was born, many people expected me to quit. Instead I went
to the Arizona Challenge and breastfed between loads! Last year, Sandy's
death shook me and I questioned my responsibilities as a mother but I am
still jumping. I hope that I live a long life and get to share many years
with Victoria. I hope she finds something that is as special to her, as
skydiving is and has been to me. I hope she understands that I have no
choice, I have to jump, it's who I am.
I appreciate the friends who are no longer with me. I miss them and I think
of them often. I like to imagine that they are sharing the sky with me on
those most rare and beautiful Seattle summer days. I also love and thank
God for the friends who are there for me still. I doubt I am as good a
friend to them as they are to me.
Thank you JC for supporting my habit and for shouldering a heavier parenting
burden when my jumping calendar is as busy as it is this year. I love you.
Thank you Art for your selflessness in friendship and all that you do. I
can't imagine not having you as my best friend, you are as much a part of my
life as jumping is.
Thank you George and Janie, Beatrice and Daniel for being such special
people -- it is always so wonderful to visit and jump with you.
Thank you Mollie for making me laugh, and for being you.
Thank you Ginger for always saying I'm a better skydiver than I really am.
That's a true friend for you! <G>
Thank you Jamey. You made it easy for me do it more than once. I'm still
kicking and so are you!
Thank you Charlie and Vic for staying active in skydiving for 30+ years and
for sharing yourselves with the Seattle Sky Divers. You are two of my
favorite people to see!
Thank you Mark Gill for helping me through the time after Mike died. If you
decide to get back in the air, you'd better call me so I can help hold YOU
stable this time!
In the end, it will be the friends who remain who will join with you and
comfort you when there is a loss. Cherish them and choose to be a survivor.
There is still a lot of living to be done, sometimes we have to grit our
teeth, muscle through and just get to it.