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Blue Skies, Black Death: Life Beyond the Edge

Blue Skies, Black Death: Life Beyond the Edge

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Published by Christian Bowman
My third essay for English Comp 1
My third essay for English Comp 1

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Published by: Christian Bowman on Jun 18, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Christian BowmanProfessor Carr English 1301 / Essay #318 June 2012Blue Skies, Black Death: Life in the Danger ZoneThanksgiving morning, 1997. My Uncle and I had been part of Skydive Palm Beach inPahokee Florida, next to Lake Okeechobee. We were expecting full manifests of jumpers all daylong and fly by’s from student pilots. Our cafe was stocked with all the traditional Thanksgivingfood and it was our first day open since the previous weekend, when three Venezuelans had diedduring a skydive. They all three bumped heads and burned in. There was still an ongoing searchfor them as their lost bodies landed somewhere in a sugar cane field across the highway from the dropzone. Themood that morning was slightly upbeat, despite thesearch. The sky was a bright inviting blue with a fewcirrus clouds that lightly whispered in the calm 3-5 knotwinds out of the north. The air was crisp and ready to beridden.I raced my Harley down hwy 715 to meet my uncle.We were trying to join 5 others to get on the first flight of the day. We went over the jump the night before andknew what everyone would be doing: I was going to beBowman 1
flying the camera to work on my framing, my uncle would be jumping the skysurf board, andtwo women would be performing various aerial dance moves around him.The engines turned over and the props started to spin. The smell of airplane exhaust filledthe tarmac. Skydivers were driving into the dropzone from Miami and Palm Beach. Peoplewere waiting in line at the manifest window to sign up for the next run. Riggers inside thehangar folded parachutes and ran their fingers through the lines while Relative Work jumpersrolled around on dollies on the concrete floor. New jumpers were watching Tandem video’s andtaking pictures, getting ready for their first jump.We loaded up in the King Air and taxied out to the runway. I shut the door just after thewheels left the ground, throwing a shaka to some of the people waving. Take off is one of the most dangerous partsof skydiving. You don’t reach a safe altitude to deploy your  parachute for some time and if anything goes wrong with the“perfectly good airplane”, chances are, you’re not getting people out of it until you reach a height of at least two grand.As we ascended, I could sense a great calm come over my uncle. A peacefulness I hadn’t seen in him for a longtime, really since before his accident. This was his third time back in the air after the physical rehab. That bounce off theground left him in a wheelchair and head brace for the better part of the last six months. The girlsthat were jumping with us also seemed to radiate the sunlight beaming in from the windows.Bowman 2
The pilot let us know he was going to take us a little higher today, to more than 14,500 ft.That would give us a few extra seconds of freefall for me to try to get the frame right and capturethe jump. After about 20 minutes, the plane leveled out and approached a line over the airfield below. Everyone did a final equipment check and the first three had gathered near the exit. Theywere performing a three-way RW jump. One of them was still holding onto the outside of thedoor until they all looked at each other, nodded and went. I stuck my head out to watch them asthey grabbed each others suits and fell together. I turned to my uncle and the other two, wegrouped around the door as the wind howled in. A last look to the pilot with a thumbs up, aconfirmation to the others and we were out the door.The first section of a skydive from an airplane is considered a hill. You are falling butmoving forward at the speed of the aircraft until you settle into the direct fall. It’s a muchdifferent sensation in your gut to jump out of an airplane than a helicopter or ballon, where youreally get the belly in your mouth feeling of direct falling.I start belly down above my uncle, who is stand-flying the board. The other two are sit flyingwith their butts down, arms out stabilizing themselves and their legs comfortably out in front of them. They look as if they’re in a lazy boy recliner of wind. My uncle does a front flip on the board andcomes out to a shaky footing. I give him aquestioning gesture to make sure he’s ok and heshoots back his trademark thumbs up that looks likehis thumb is fighting to escape his fist.Bowman 3

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