A bird’s-eye view of Suffolk

Published 9:01 pm Monday, November 14, 2011

When my husband requested we do something “huge” for his birthday, I jokingly suggested we go skydiving. I assumed it was something my husband wasn’t interested in. Boy, was I wrong.

So we set a date to jump out of a plane from Skydive Suffolk on Saturday.

On Friday night, I found it hard to get to sleep. It was a little like the night before the first day of school. When I was a child, I always imagined the best- and worst-case scenarios, so that I would be prepared for whatever would come.

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But there was no preparing for my experience with Skydive Suffolk.

We arrived at noon, hearts racing at the prospect of doing something so dangerous.

Most of the day is a haze. There was training, including a video peppered with jokes and legalese. I remember signing away my life and right to sue in case of an accident.

By the time we met the two tandem instructors — Jim and Chris — we might have been rethinking our decision. After a few joking — we hoped — references to learning the ins and outs of skydiving from YouTube videos and “Skydiving for Dummies” books, some more prudent than I might have turned back.

But I had first vowed to jump out of an airplane when I was 6 years old. I wasn’t about to go back on a 19-year-old promise to myself.

Besides, it was difficult not to get excited again as we waited in the hangar, surrounded by experienced jumpers waiting their turns. Many congratulated us on deciding to make the leap — literally.

Then our names were called and it was all an adrenaline-fueled blur as we cinched up, tried on caps and goggles, reviewed instructions for a third time and crammed into the relatively tiny plane. I sat next to my husband, who was grinning with the glee of a toddler on Christmas morning. I’m sure my face was the same.

It seemed we were at altitude in the blink of an eye. Clarity settled over me as the sun began dipping toward the horizon and my instructor buckled me to him.

“Are you nervous?” yelled Chris, my instructor, over the propeller. I shook my head no, and I wasn’t lying. “Good! Now, on the count of three? One! Two! Three!”

We rolled out of the open hatch, flipped and soared into the clearest blue sky I’ve ever seen.

Another jumper who had gone up in the plane with us stuck close to Chris and I for the first minute of freefall. He performed aerial flips, grinning and waving with a joy that made me realize why so many skydivers do this so often.

Then Chris deployed the parachute, and we swayed on the slightly chilly breezes as our entertainer slipped out of sight.

Chris pointed out different parts of Suffolk: The Great Dismal Swamp and Lake Drummond, Harbour View and downtown. He pointed out the plane as it turned toward the airport to land. He pointed out my husband, whom I later learned had been allowed to steer the parachute for a little bit.

It took eight minutes or so to land, and in that time I got a whole new view of Suffolk. From up there, the city glistened, and the fall leaves reflected the setting sun. When we landed, all I wanted to do was go right back up and jump again.

It’s an experience I’ll never forget, and one I’m glad I had in Suffolk.