Summer Snaps: And I’m free. Free-falling
There we were, knees grazing as we sat hunched in this tin-box aircraft, about to take the jump of our lives
He flashed that signature American white smile and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up: ‘Terrifying, isn’t it?’
I couldn’t stop them from sweating. No matter how many times I sleeked my palms off my quivering knees, I just couldn’t get them dry. The aircraft was small. Too small. I caught Declan’s eye. His pupils were dilated with excitement. I could almost hear his heart pounding. Three weeks ago I didn’t even know the Tipp man, and now, here we were, knees grazing as we sat hunched in this tin-box aircraft, about to take the jump of our lives.
What was I doing here? I started to panic. The reasons why I had chosen to do this were falling away with each foot we rose. “Once in a lifetime experience,” they all chimed. I thought of all the hard-earned J1 dollars I had saved for this. I’d had given twice as much to just be brought safely back to earth.
Caught up in the excitement of travel, new friends and Long Island Iced Teas, 12 college kids from all corners of Ireland had eagerly thrown their money at the idea and skipped along on their merry way. That was three weeks ago. Now that it was time, I was shaking uncontrollably, my eyes brimming with fearful tears. I looked behind me to the instructor for some words of reassurance, encouragement – anything. He flashed that signature American white smile and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up: “Terrifying, isn’t it?”
His face turned serious as he tightened the straps that held us together. He started regurgitating all the safety precautions we had learned on the ground. But I couldn’t listen. My blood was doing a drumbeat in my ears and my heart was pulverising my ribcage.
Before I knew it, the aircraft door was open and my legs were thrust over the side. “Just think of Ireland,” I cried in my head. And then we fell.
The feeling was unimaginable. Cool fresh air whizzed by me as we shot towards the ground like a bullet. All feelings of terror and regret were left behind me as I plummeted 16,000ft. We broke the cloud barrier and it was time to pull the cord. As we exploded upwards I felt like God himself had grabbed me out of midair.
Pure feelings of bliss and tranquillity trickled through every tendon as we glided peacefully through the sky. My sunburned skin tingled and my fingers felt weightless as the soft breeze kept us airborne. The evening sun glistened off the Atlantic and I could see the giant ferris wheel on the boardwalk slowly turning. Amusement-park lights twinkled, sand sparkled and tourists bustled below me like ants. It was the first time I had truly appreciated the beauty of the seaside resort, Ocean City, my home for the summer. I couldn’t wait to call home and tell them I had done a skydive.