Jump! For Kids and Teens

EVER since I was a little girl I have wanted to go sky diving. It was a dream that I always thought would never come true - until my freshman year at college. I was approached one day by a friend who had received a pamphlet in his mailbox about taking a day trip to go sky diving. He asked me if I would be interested in going. At first I just could not believe it. The chance to make my dream come true! Of course I answered that I would love to go. Soon a group of three other students was rounded up and a date was set for the big day.

During the days preceding the adventure many of my friends were concerned for my safety and some were even envious. As for myself, well, I guess I realized that it was a little bit crazy, but in general, I had a good feeling about the excursion.

On the arrival of the big day I was awakened at 6 a.m. by an angry-sounding alarm. We had to leave at 7 o'clock for the jumping site, because the drive to get there took two hours. We drove out of Pennsylvania into Ohio and listened to the sky-diving stories of our driver, who was himself quite experienced. I'm not sure how the four others felt as they listened (I know that one of the boys was along in hopes that his fear of heights would be conquered), but I felt my excitement growing - especially when he described the ride down to earth.

Finally we arrived at our destination. There was a large expanse of land, half grass and half cornfield and two buildings. The first was a small, run-down aluminum shack that looked a bit like a trailer home. The second was a large white barn that looked as though it needed a paint job.

We were escorted into the trailer house, which proved to be the office and classroom, and were introduced to our instructor. For the rest of the morning we learned all about safety precautions, jumping procedure, and the names of all the parts of the parachute.

After a leisurely lunch we began our outdoor training. We were taught how to break our fall when landing so as not to hurt ourselves. We practiced proper jumping techniques - how to step off the little platform, arch our backs, and count. Then we were taken to the big white barn (which was actually the airplane hangar) and shown the plane we would be flying in. Next we were shown how to get into the plane according to jumping order and how to move around inside when it was our turn to jump.

All in all our training took about seven hours. People always ask me, ``Weren't you scared when you were about to jump?'' I was not. The day full of training not only taught me how to sky-dive, it got me so ready for the jump that I kept asking the instructor, ``Can't we go up now?'' I was raring to go.

Finally the big moment arrived. We were suited up in jumping gear with our packs on and boarded the airplane. The plane was so small that it could hold only three jumpers, the pilot and the jumpmaster, who coached us while in the plane and hanging on the wing. I decided I wanted to be the second jumper in the first plane. We all crammed in and the little aircraft took off.

While the pilot was positioning the craft, the jumpmaster pointed out the landmarks down below, showing us the airport and the landing mark on the field that was our target. The first jumper positioned himself and jumped.

Suddenly a slight case of the butterflies overcame me. I was next! The pilot circled around to reposition the craft. The jumpmaster told me to move to the front of the plane where the next jumper must sit. When the pilot found the right spot I was given my next order. ``Get ready!'' the jumpmaster yelled.

The door was opened and I swung my feet around so that I was sitting in the doorway with my feet hanging down. I held the wing strut in one hand and the door frame in the other. ``Get set!'' came the next command. I grasped the wing strut firmly with both hands and slid onto the step which was strategically placed on the leg of the airplane.

The wind was pushing against me with tremendous force so that holding on was difficult. Just then came the last command. ``Go!'' I took a deep breath and stepped backward, letting go of the wing strut.

Because this was my first sky dive, I did not do a free-fall jump, but a static-line jump. In other words, I did not have to pull the rip cord to open my chute; it was attached to a 12-foot rope that was tied to the chair of the pilot's seat. So when I stepped off, I fell only three to four seconds, or until my 12 feet of rope ran out and pulled out my chute.

Those few seconds were the only scary part of the whole day, but they were over so fast that I really did not have time to do anything but gasp.

I felt as though someone had punched me in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me. But in the next instant there was a jerk as the canopy opened. It was not as strong as I had imagined it would be, or maybe I was just relieved to have my fast, wild fall cushioned. At any rate, when I looked up and saw the giant green circle of parachute above me, a smile filled my whole body.

I started looking around. I had jumped from an altitude of 2,800 feet and because of my weight, the fall took me about three minutes, although it seemed like much longer. Until the end of the fall, it seemed like I was not moving at all, but stuck motionless in the sky. It was a clear day, so the view was absolutely amazing! I think I saw the farthest I have ever seen in one eyeful.

As I took in the surroundings, it occurred to me that I could not hear a thing. It was not the kind of silence one hears when there is no noise, but even quieter. It was not a lonely quietness, but very peaceful. It felt and sounded wonderful!

The closer I came to the earth, the faster I felt myself falling. All at once I was more than just falling. The ground came rushing up underneath me - faster, faster, bigger, bigger. Then suddenly, crash!

I landed on my feet, then fell flat on my back instead of bending and rolling as we had been taught in training. I did not mind, though. I was too exhilarated. I lay still on the ground until all of my parachute had also landed, and then I stood up to see the first jumper come running up to me. ``Katherine! Katherine! We did it!'' he yelled exuberantly, as he threw his arms around me.

``Yes, we certainly did,'' I thought to myself, ``and my dream has come true.'' It was an unforgettable day.

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