Malfunction

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posted on May, 20 2008 @ 02:04 AM
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I guess in retrospect, I was not in any real danger of death as I still had my reserve parachute but, at least for a moment, I found myself face to face with that ugly monster we call death. It changed my life in an instant.

I'd been through an extremely traumatic divorce that summer and it pretty much seemed at the time that my life was over. I had been torturing myself with suicidal thoughts (although deep down I sensed that was something which I would never actually pursue) though the thoughts were nearly inescapable. What a completely wretched state to find oneself in.

I guess it's no small surprise that I soon found myself attracted to skydiving. I remember telling friends it was no big deal, that there was always a chance that the parachute would open.

I become so smitten with skydiving after the first jump that I wasted no time at all in buying a parachute rig and completing the student program. Things seemed a bit brighter but I was still wrestling with my inner demons.

Fast forward to jump #13 (go figure...). This was the first jump on my new rig and I made the mistake of allowing a somewhat inexperienced skydiving friend (he was actually my cousin) to pack the parachute for me as I was still not trained to pack. My rig was slightly different than his and as he routed the bridle and pin to the closing loop, he made a crucial error.

At 3000 feet I threw my pilot chute as planned but nothing happened. I looked over my shoulder and there was that black and white pilot chute trailing helplessly into the blue sky above me. It was pulling on the container instead of the retaining pin and could not open the container and pull the parachute out into the airstream. Odd that such a small thing could have such an impact on life itself.

As a student skydiver you think a lot about how you will react to a malfunction while hurtling toward the ground at 120 miles per hour. Will you be able to collect your thoughts and choose the appropriate course of action? Will you fall apart and freeze? Will you spend the last moments of your life flailing and kicking in a blur of incomprehension? These are questions that can only be answered through experience. My experience was that a very deep and surreal calm came over me. The voice in my head said "well, this is it, do you want to live or do you want to die?" in that split second, I realized that there was no question in my mind whatsoever.

I wanted to LIVE!

No flashback of my life, no desperate thoughts, just a surreal calm and a small affirmation of life. What came after that was really quite simple. A training manual I had read on emergency procedures came to mind verbatim. The main parachute is not out, do not waste time trying to free the malfunctioned main from its container. Don't further complicate things by cutting away the main if it is still in the container. Pull the reserve handle and release your reserve. Simple as that. The beautiful blue shade of my reserve parachute was forever etched into my mind. As well as a new found knowledge that I loved life and everything about it.

To my way of thinking, I believe the circumstance that happened, happened because at some level, I wanted it to happen. But in that instant of uncertainty, I released my demons and reached out to embrace life as it was intended.

Fourteen years and three hundred eighty-seven skydives have gone by since that life altering jump. To this day I tell people that a skydiving malfunction may well have saved my life.





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