Finally, it came my group's turn to dive. Divers were loaded in the plane. We sat in a long line, legs outstretched, almost in each others' laps. I was in my Senior Masters' lap. The plane, to me, looked like the plane in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom that carried Dr. Jones to India. I could almost hear the chickens squawking over the engines.
was a wave of excitement that swept over everyone as the plane began to
taxi to the runway. I calmed my nerves, looked out the window and
prayed. "Great Spirit, I'm going to fly, today. Please take me in your
hand and bring me safely back to Earth." This prayer would continue
until my moment of truth.
Beneath me, the metal
thrummed and the engines purred as we took off. Pressed back against
each other in a line, we waited. Out of the small window to my right, I
watched the ground shrink below me, still praying. As I could see less
and less of the ground below me, I turned my attention inward. I closed
my eyes and continued to pray. From time to time, one of the more
seasoned divers would attempt to goose and scare me. It never worked. I
just opened my eyes and looked at them. "Yes?" I'd ask them in a calm
voice. "Nothing," was usually the response.
seemed a long time in flight, we heard the pilot say, "Okay. Now!" My
Senior Master leaned down into my ear and said, "He better be right. He
got the Helen Keller award, last year." Later, I would learn that 'The
Helen Keller Award' was a spoof prize given to the pilot who told divers
to jump either too early or too late, resulting in the divers coming
down nowhere near their jump target.
With the word of
the pilot, the door to the plane was opened. Pair by pair, I watched as
people left the door. It was as simple as that. They were just in the
door of the plane one second, and the next they had fallen forward and
were gone. There was no big scenes of people peeing themselves.
Everything went smoothly.
Suddenly, my Senior Master
said, "Our turn!" I stood up and maneuvered to the front of the plane as
best I could with a full-grown man strapped to my back. I reached out,
put my hands on either side of the door and looked down. Below me, only
one step away, were clouds. The vast openness of sky yawned out before
me. I could see patches of green through the clouds and the wind whipped
around my face. So simple, it seemed. Just one step. One leap of faith
out into the sun-speckled air. My moment of truth.
I closed my eyes. . . I took a deep breath. . . and I fell.