by Anthony Corona
How high? 15,000 feet to be exact! When I lost my sight a little over six years ago, I had to grapple with the fact that things I loved doing were now lost to me — things such as driving a car, flying lessons, and some of the adrenaline-rushing activities I loved. One of my bucket list items was skydiving, and I was unsure I would be able to cross that one off the list — unsure until Schaumburg! With a group from Blind Pride, I was able to experience this amazing thrill.
As the plane took off and the final safety checks began, an eerie calm overtook me and the adrenaline began to rise, from gut first through each finger and hair upon my head. The plane climbed and the rush of air all added to the sense that I was moments away from a free fall like no other. The 35 seconds of the fall were amazingly intense and surprisingly loud. I could not even hear my top-of-the-lungs screams of exhilaration. After the parachute deployed, my instructor chuckled and asked, “So I hear you’re a daredevil; wanna have some fun?” And fun was had! Luis allowed me to control the parachute and instructed me how to steer, initiate spirals and loop-de-loops. It’s thrilling and so peaceful at the same time, although some tiny parts of my old brain lamented the fact I could not see the earth and its beauty from that vantage point.
The Friday skydiving adventure was just a great prologue to a convention to remember. As chair of the Blind Pride convention team, I am so happy that our programming was so well attended, received and talked about. First they came for a rousing call to action by BPI and our allies. We see the tide as it rolls in and we are ready to stand tall and loud, and the exuberant declarations from ACB allies made it a great opening to BPI offerings. Tristan Snyder’s 3-D audio excursion surpassed what he has given us in the past and took us to new heights of the immersive experience. We talked aging, legislation, advocacy; brought forth the rainbow via origami, mixed it up with other affiliates, and of course, there were those always popular wine tastings.
Like our partnership with Friends-in-Art, we were honored to be asked to help bring the beloved Showcase back to its former glory. I publicly admit here: Peter, you were right! It all comes together in the last 48 hours — which is hard for a type-A planner to believe. So many of the show’s performers were Blind Pride members sharing their incredible talent with our audience. The after-party open mike, although delayed from circumstances beyond our control, also brought the house down! I was so personally honored to be asked to host the FIA/BPI breakfast and introduce Jason Castonguay, the master of the Showcase. Make no mistake, folks, without his musical genius, the show could not have gone on, and his breakfast talk and call to action was not to be missed. So grab those podcasts when they are available and celebrate the amazing talents of Jason, myself and all the great performers.
Personally, I hold a lot of pride to have been asked to lend my voice and talent to Ron Brooks’ amazing transportation conversation and RSVA’s tech panel. I remarked to friends that just a few short years ago I was attending my first convention in shades of awe and wondered if I would ever be as confident and productive as some of the great people I had met. To be included in so many areas this year reinforces my love for and commitment to ACB! I also celebrated a personal milestone in Illinois, an anniversary of love. It was a convention that not only brought me a new family but a love for my lifetime.
So, even though the rush has long been spent and the landing back on earth a memory, ACB’s 62nd annual convention will always soar in the clouds of my memories!