At top left, my mom Amy Withers; top right: my sister Haley Withers; bottom left: me and bottom right: my dad Dan Withers. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, June 11, 2012 11:00 AM
Two-thousand feet. Four-thousand feet. Six-thousand feet in the air.
I’m on a plane, strapped to a stranger, watching the ground below disappear.
Eight-thousand feet. Ten-thousand feet. Twelve- thousand feet. We’re almost there.
“Air conditioning,” one of the skydiving instructors yelled. The door opened and wind came rushing in.
Thirteen-thousand feet. It’s time to jump.
In early May, my entire family met up at Skydive Houston to celebrate my dad’s 50th birthday and Mother’s Day by jumping out of a plane.
My sister Haley and I had jumped once before, but this was our first time to skydive as a whole family. Though we are not usually a thrill-seeking bunch, it was exciting to throw all caution to the wind and just let loose as a family.
We arrived at the site and had to sign our lives away. There were around 10 pages of warning and liability forms reading: “Warning! Skydiving, parachuting, and all its related activities can be dangerous, and there are risks involved in your participation. You can be seriously injured or even killed as a result of your participation in skydiving or its related activities.”
Seriously injured or killed? Sign us up, we’re ready!
After one quick training video we suited up and went out to the loading area.
We had come with a large group and my family did not get to go up in the plane at the same time. My dad and sister were up first.
My mother and I watched from the ground as the plane took off and again as we tried to pick out which color parachute they had as they descended from the clouds.
My dad said that he felt like a rock star and that he would do it again tomorrow if he had the chance. (However, when we watched the video of his jump it did appear that he had a moment of panic when it was actually time to leave the plane!)
My sister said that it was even better than the first time.
Then it was my mom’s turn. We were all very impressed that my mother was even willing to skydive and were very interested to see what she would think about it.
When she made it back down to solid ground, she was a little disoriented but said that it had been an amazing rush — but one she wasn’t sure she was ever going to repeat!
Finally, it was my turn. I was paired with a skydive instructor named Johnnie who was from Mexico City. This would be his 7,976th jump.
I remarked to him that it has to be weird to do something multiple times a day that for most people is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He told me that was what made it all worthwhile for him.
“I love sharing what I love with people every day. I want them to love it, too,” he said.
I had felt completely confident about the jump while I was on the ground, but I confess that once in the air my stomach was filled with butterflies. The closer I walked to the edge of the plane, the more my body said “NO WAY!”
Johnnie encouraged me and we leapt from the plane. The sun was shining, the weather was beautiful and it felt amazing. I was flying!
He opened the parachute and we floated back down to Earth.
My family’s skydiving adventure was over, but it had opened our eyes to a whole new world of family activities. I can’t wait for the next one.