It was a beautiful Friday morning in Colorado, USA. We just lived through a numbingly cold winter and now we’ve eased into spring. The air was crisp and fresh, the April 2009 sky was a clear blue and rays of sunlight decorated the ground. It hasn’t snowed in a while too – a perfect day to be jumping out of an airplane.
My brother, Shamil, and I picked up breakfast from McDonald’s and then set off for a 2-hour drive from our Working Holiday home in Vail to Boulder, our skydiving destination.
We arrived at this humongous field pocketed with buildings that looked like little warehouses. Up above us, airplanes, not commercial airbuses but rather gliders, graced the air.
“I know skydiving is a dangerous sport.” Yes.
“I understand that I might die from skydiving.” Okay.
“I won’t sue Colorado Sky Sports if the parachute fails and I die.” Absolutely.
The friendly skydiving people made sure we signed our ‘death warrants’ before putting us on the plane.
Shamil, who was celebrating his 29th birthday, was the first to risk it. From our feet firmly planted on ground, we searched from his shadow in the sky. He grew from a blurry speck amongst the clouds into a great big bird as he glided back down to earth.
My heart thumps as I put on my harness.
My guts squirmed with delight as I jumped into the tiny plane. The pilot is a woman, she looks super cool with her aviators and headset on. I want to be her when I grow up.
*Fades out. Fades in.*
We take flight. My atrium and ventricular skipped a beat as we competed with the mountains. We flew higher and higher until we won.
*Fades out. Fades in.*
Now we were but a tiny, insignificant dot in the sky.
*Fades out. Fades in.*
The skydiving instructor that I’m strapped to and I moved ourselves to the edge of the plane door. I wore him like a backpack and sat in between his legs. The door was open.
Our legs dangled in the air. I could feel clouds seeping through our hair. I look down and boy, are we high up.
I turned around and saw my brother being pushed, yes, pushed out of the plane.
“You ready?” My instructor asked.
Before I could even process the question, a flurry of nothingness invaded me. Suddenly, there I was from the height of 12,000 feet in the air giving myself up to gravity.
Like nature’s call, the plane pooped up little flying humans. The barely visible dot in the sky became two dots, and then three. They grew bigger and bigger like a wet sponge as they sped like a meteorite down toward earth.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s just Mei and her brother freefalling!
It’s hard to think or catch hold of anything when you are dropping from 12,000ft in the air.
No ‘ohmygods’, no ‘imgoingtodie’, no ‘thisisawesome’, yet.
I searched my brain for the body position the instructor taught me – cross my arms against my chest and fold my legs backwards towards his bum.
All I could feel was the rush of wind in my face, my hair, my mouth. I couldn’t breathe. There was an immense pressure pushing against my chest. I tried to shout like I would on a rollercoaster but nothing came out.
All I could think of was “Open your eyes! Open your mouth! Breathe!”
And then, a magical poofe!
The cord was pulled and the parachute bloomed like a summer’s rose. Suddenly, all was calm again.
Tranquility came so abruptly. It was as if someone suddenly pressed the pause button on my freefalling.
This was when I registered the past 30 seconds. I just lived through a fleeting moment of surrendering to the laws of physics. I literally put my life in the hands of a stranger and one backpack.
This is when my heart started beating again, and I inhaled the bird’s eye view of the world.
“Ohh, I can see Malaysia from here!”
“Can you really?”
So the skydiving instructor wasn’t the wittiest cookie, but he made this once in a lifetime experience breathtaking… literally.
As we gently floated down like a dandelion in midair, he let me play with the levers. I tried turning left, I tried turning right, until it was time to buttslide back down to solid ground.
Okay, this experience does not have to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing; I could definitely muster the courage and blind faith to do it again. My brother had done his second jump in New Zealand last year. Perhaps I’ll get my own skydiving license? They told me 25 jumps and you’re qualified. That’s not too bad.
For now, seven years on and still woozy from the fall, I’m crossing skydiving off my bucket list.
This post was first written in April 2009 when I worked at the Vail Marriott Ski Resort during the snow season. Gosh, it’s been 7 years since I took flight!
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