It’s only been a week since The Big Drop, but it feels like a thousand, million years ago. All the planning, all the scary, panic-ridden anticipation, made for an awesome day, and an instant family memory that I will never, ever forget.
We woke up early last Saturday, handed out some awesome “Big Drop” T-shirts, and headed to the Long Island Skydiving Center in East Moriches, about five minutes from Nana’s, a straight shot on Montauk Highway. When we got there, my mom took one look at the open field and tiny planes and spilled her entire cup of coffee all over my car. This brought back severe anxiety memories of being late for school, mom rushing and coffee flying everywhere. Great way to start off my skydiving adventure, with sheer panic.
We (literally) signed our lives away in a small, unairconditioned trailer, with Axel, our new best friend, taping us while we read the consent forms that say we won’t sue if we die. Nice. We then piled into the Shaggin’ Wagon (the most awesome Scooby-Do van with leopard-print carpet on the walls) for our trip out to the landing zone. Jumpers in the first group, our family-turned-paparazzi in the second.
When we got to the landing zone, we met our tandem partners. Amanda immediately fell in love, while I was a bit concerned that my partner, Yuri, was chain-smoking and mainlining what I can only assume was coffee, but could very well have been tequila, vodka, absinthe or Red Bull (it gives you wings). We also met Emma, who packs the parachutes. I don’t know why she was so reassuring, because she’s a complete stranger, but having the person who packs the ‘chutes tell me that I was going to survive put me at ease, and from that point on, I felt like there was very little to worry about.
While strapping us into our harnesses, our tandem partners explained all the technical skydiving moves, basically, “when I do this, make a banana shape; when I do this, grab your harness.” It’s all very scientific. The first group up was Uncle Ray and Nicole. While Nik landed pretty perfectly, Uncle Ray performed what we now like to call a “shit skid,” ripping his pants AND underwear. I gave it a 10.
Dad and I were next. It didn’t help matters that our plane was out of commission before we got there because of a broken part. We joked that they just slapped some duct tape on it to make it run, but I still think that some of that joking was serious. Dad, me, our tandems and the pilot crammed ourselves into the smallest plane I’ve ever been in (we’re talking Amelia Earhart-style) and took the 20 minute flight to two miles above the Earth.
Dad jumped out first, and I swear to God all I could think about was the scene in Air Force One where Harrison Ford straps the Russian guy to a parachute and pushes him out of the plane. From my window view it looked like Dad got sucked out, with no choice in the matter, and all of a sudden I was at the plane’s open door.
Yuri said his commands and I went into perfect “banana shape.” Before I knew it, we were flying above the Atlantic Ocean, wind in my face, my cheeks wobbling back and forth, plummeting to the ground. It was AMAZING. The freefall definitely didn’t feel as long as I thought it would, and if it didn’t result in death, I could have freefalled forever.
After our ‘chute opened, I saw a small dot in the sky. “Is that my dad??” I screamed up at Yuri. We moved closer and closer to the dot until I could see that it was in fact my dad, floating over Long Island just like I was. Then we passed each other! In mid-air! My dad was yelling “Kelllllyyyyyy!” and waving like a maniac. It was the coolest thing ever.
I landed first, perfectly (obviously), and Dad right after me. Amanda and Sam, who apparently took the Concorde up in the air since they left a good 10 minutes after we did, were next. Sam, as I predicted, took the longest to drop, and pretty much came down like a feather. She probably didn’t need the parachute. RJ was the last to land, having to go up in the plane on his own. As you can see in the video, he landed pretty perfectly too.
After it was all over, after everyone made it safely back to real life, all I wanted to do was get back in that airplane and jump again. I can’t believe that I was as scared as I was leading up to The Big Drop. Now I feel silly. I CANNOT wait until the next time I skydive.
Back at Nana’s house, Uncle Ray had a pinning ceremony for us, and bestowed upon us the honor of Jump Wings. He was so awesome to surprise us, and Uncle Ray, I’m truly touched that you consider us all worthy of those pins. I’ll wear mine with pride.
It’s not a shock to me that I have such an amazing family. It is a shock to me, however, that they joined me in such a crazy feat. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I was certain that one, if not all of us, would chicken out. I couldn’t be prouder of the accomplishment we achieved last weekend, and I couldn’t be luckier to have such great people in my life. To all of us, congratulations!
For more pics, view the album.
To plan your own Drop, visit the Long Island Skydiving Center.