Editor’s note: In June, our Becketwood neighbors, sisters Sally Lofte and Susan Foster, went skydiving for the first time. This is their story. Following their story is a poem written by another Becketwood Member after her experience skydiving.
Our Skydiving Adventure
By Susan Foster and Sally Lofte, Becketwood Members
Susan: This all started when I got a Groupon for skydiving discount. For some time, Sally and I had talked about skydiving, so the Groupon was the prod we needed to really do it.
Sally: For me, skydiving was appealing because I have always wanted to fly like a bird. I couldn’t wait to get up in the air and have that sense of freedom and letting go. I wasn’t the least bit uneasy about being up in the air and free falling.
Susan: I will have to say that I was a little unsettled about the whole idea. There was a touch of nervousness on my part. I thought to myself, Sally is in massive denial, but, of course, she really wasn’t.
Susan: Before you can go up in the air, you have to watch a ten-minute video telling you that you are going to sign away any possible rights you could think of, including a provision which says that you can’t sue yourself! The skydivers at Westwind Skydiving showed us the gear and how to put it on. They explained that we would each be tethered to an experienced skydiver with a harness. I suppose you could say that we put our lives in their hands. Our guides, Sonny and Sebastian, were very reassuring. They told us that they had skydived hundreds of times, so we trusted them immediately.
Sally: Our plane flew 15 minutes to reach an altitude of 14,000 feet. When we got there, we were ready for the jump. It took about 15 minutes. As we were going up, I kept thinking how beautiful the countryside was. It was all farmland dotted with small lakes. I wasn’t thinking all that much about the jump. I was in the moment, enjoying the view.
Susan: Once we got to the right elevation, the big door right next to me opened. It was just a few inches away. By now, I was strapped to my guide, so I knew I wouldn’t fall out. The other experienced skydivers on the plane were all jumping solo. Because they were experienced, they didn’t need to be tethered to another skydiver, as we were. Two by two, they walked up to the door and just stepped out. In less than a second, they had disappeared and we never saw them again. It happened so fast. And, of course, the plane was still moving.
Susan: I was the first one of the two of us to go out. I had to sort of waddle over to the door. Sonny was right behind me. He was nudging me gently. Now, I was at the edge of the open door and I wasn’t frightened. I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure I would be scared to death at this point, but that didn’t happen. The light over the door blinked green. Sonny said “go,” and off we went. . As we fell, he turned us around so I could see the sky. We were above the clouds. Then we turned around again so I could see the earth. I was in some kind of reverie. It was wonderful.
Sally: My guide, Sebastien, and I were in freefall for 50 seconds before our parachute opened. I didn’t want it to open. I wanted to keep free falling, flying like a bird. I felt extremely free and unencumbered. It is hard to describe the feeling; it is like an out-of-the body experience.
Susan: You don’t really have a sense of falling, because you are not in proximity to anything. It felt more like floating. When the parachute opened, there was a slight jerk.
Sally: Sonny and Sebastien each had a camera on their wrists so they took pictures during the entire skydiving experience. The scenery was so beautiful. As we glided, it was peaceful and relaxing. And at the same time it was exhilarating.
Susan: I told Sonny that I could fall asleep while we were going down because I was so relaxed.
Sally: As we were landing, we were told to put our legs straight out in front of us. The parachute was still moving, so if we landed on our feet, we could have broken our legs. The skydiver who was tethered to us would be the one to land on his feet. And that worked!
Susan: As the ground gets closer you do have the feeling of going faster. The speed seems to accelerate as you are about to land. But then, as you are landing, the guides are able to pull the lines on the parachute and it does slow down.
Sally: We were only in the air for about five minutes but it seemed longer.
Sally: As we were making arrangements for the jump, the people at Westwind suggested that we have someone ready to drive us home, because it would take some time for the adrenalin surge to wear off. They were right, and I am glad we had a driver. I had to sign my name afterwards and I found that my hand was shaking. When it was all over, it was a little anti-climactic for me. But then, about four days later we watched the video of our skydive, and it was like reliving the experience all over again. Looking back, we still can’t believe we did this at our age.
Susan: I have a problem with heights. I don’t like to going near the edge at the top of a tall building, but I never experienced any of that uneasiness while we were skydiving.
Sally: You are not really looking down when you are in the air. You are looking out, so you don’t have the same feeling you would have when you are looking down from the top of a cliff or a high building. I went on a roller coaster once. I would never do that again, but I can’t wait to do another skydive. We both can’t wait!
by Pat Cummings, Becketwood Member
One-prop plane rises
Slow circles spiraling up
Two strangers tethered.
We slide out the door
Conjoined twins in free fall
Wing-like arms reach wide.
Deafening wind roars
There is no sense of falling
A mile close to flight.
Rip cord releases
Our bodies jerk cloudward
No sound as we float
Rainbow canopy shields sky
Time to see the peace.
Ground rushes at us
Legs bent like eagle’s talons
Landing without grace.
Unhooked we stand
For two minutes we had flown
Is this what birds know?
May 12, 2008