I remember my skydiving experience vividly, as if it happened just yesterday. The exhilarating moments come rushing back to me—the anticipation building during the 15-minute airplane ride, where we sat on the floor, feeling the roughness of the carpet beneath us. Skydiving is indeed a sport that leaves its mark, and even within the airplane, the heat of summertime adds to the intensity.
As the aircraft ascended, carrying 22 jumpers, time seemed to stretch. The thin air at higher altitudes had a peculiar effect, making it easy to drift into a deep slumber. It was as if a gentle lullaby played by the wind whispered me into a peaceful nap. The rhythmic hum of the engines and the gradual ascent lured me into a serene sleep.
However, as we approached the final altitude, a jolt of awareness swept over me, dispelling any remnants of drowsiness. The adrenaline surged, and every nerve in my body tingled with excitement. It was time to wake from my tranquil respite and prepare for the exhilarating dive into the open sky.
It has been an incredible 18 years since my last skydiving adventure. Reflecting back, I realize that I had the privilege of making thousands of jumps starting from 1992. Despite breaking my feet in 1995, I remarkably returned to the skies just three months later. Skydiving became a significant part of my life as I not only engaged in the sport but also established a parachute retail store, operated a mail order business, created skydiving training videos, and even authored a book.
Although I consider myself a novice compared to many seasoned skydivers, my close friend Jeff Provenzano stands out as a true master of the meditative aspect of skydiving. Our shared journey began together, and while I can vividly recall every detail of my parachute container, such as its stitch and binding, my final gear consisted of a Mirage container and a Stiletto 120 parachute. Along my skydiving path, I encountered two parachute malfunctions—one of which resulted from hooking up my Vengeance 107 backwards during a test flight, leading me to "chop" it and deploy my reserve parachute. It was exhilarating, crazy, and somewhat foolish fun.
The memories of the skydiving community remain etched in my mind. I remember the faces of every person I met, the laughter, and the overall sense of craziness. The sound of the Twin Otter revving its engines as it charged down the runway still rings in my ears. I recall the thunderous descent of large formations of skydivers just before reaching break altitude. Alongside the vibrant memories, I also remember a few fallen comrades who left a profound impact on me: Gus Wing, Mike Truffer, and Joe Stanley. Their departure shook the community, and their names will forever hold significance in our hearts. Patrick, Rob, and Tom are also etched in my memory, representing the great individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice.
I cherish the countless moments and experiences I had throughout my years of skydiving. As I pray, I hope my children do not follow in my adventurous footsteps, for I recognize the inherent risks involved. Nonetheless, I am immensely grateful for the joy and fulfillment that skydiving brought into my life. Amen, and praise be to God.