Mankind has always dreamt of flying. I suppose the closest we humans can get to flying is to go skydiving but for most of us our dreams of flight end with the thought of throwing ourselves out of a moving airplane. Not so for four brave St. Cloud Hospital volunteers who made their dreams of human flight a reality.
Three of the four skydivers are seniors. They are: Andy Anderson, Margaret Rice, and Terry Sylvester. Matt Fuchs is a younger man who also took the jump. Anderson happened to mention to his fellow volunteers how he had been thinking he would like to go skydiving. As soon as the others got wind of this idea they all began planning.
On a Sunday in July the four took advantage of a half-off opportunity and did the jump in Milaca. After instruction and filling out the necessary paperwork, they each did a tandem jump with a jump master. All the divers said they were not frightened beforehand just thrilled and excited. “My favorite part was after the canopy opened,” said Sylvester, “I was amazed beyond belief. I didn’t want it to end. I was speechless and cried!”
Rice’s experience was similar, even though this was her second skydiving jump. Her first jump was with a group of women in Baldwin, Wis. The group set a world record. The record was to have 100 women over age 50 jump in a single day.
Daring adventures are not new for Rice. She loves to go parasailing, zip-lining, and is an avid Harley rider. “You get such a rush, and your heart is excited! I never thought about danger… just had a great time,” said Rice. Rice’s favorite part was the free fall, which is before the parachute opens and the skydiver is rushing through the air at approximately 120 miles per hour. Free falling usually lasts about 40 seconds and many of those who experience it say it’s 40 amazing seconds you remember for the rest of your life.
Anderson explained that one must crouch down real low with your knees up toward your chest before exiting the plane. The jumper is strapped to the tandem master with a harness. “The tandem master hovers over you, and then 1…2…3 out you both go head over heels,” said Anderson. “You feel the jerk when the canopy opens. Also, I didn’t feel this at the time, but in the pictures I saw of myself afterwards, the skin on my face was being pulled back by the extreme wind. It looked like someone was pulling back my skin…like a sudden face lift,” he said.
Anderson wondered if his experience might be a bit different from the others because he is a retired naval aviator and commercial airline pilot. “I’ve been in planes all my life,” he said. “In the Navy I was taught to jump out of a plane only if your life depended on it. We were taught how to eject from a plane but never practiced it,” said Anderson. “When I heard George H. W. Bush, who was also a naval pilot, went skydiving at age 80, I wanted to too,” he said. “During the jump I felt like part of the plane. It was great!”
I asked the three senior jumpers how they felt right after their jump, and they all said exhilarated. Sylvester said she laughed and was so awestruck she could hardly talk. They said it was a great experience that they would gladly do again. Rice even said she would do a solo jump if the instruction was thorough enough.