by Gail Selfridge

And what might that be? To me it was jumping out of an airplane and falling at the rate of 140 miles per hour. I did this in tandem with someone who knew what he was doing but there was still an element of fear for a split second when we let go of the plane. Some people say that the fear wouldn't be so great for me because I'm blind and can't see the ground rushing up at me, but they don't realize two things. For 20 years of my life I had some sight, so I could imagine the ground rushing up, and I put all my concentration into the motion of falling so it was at least as vivid to me as it would be to anyone else.

I dreamed of doing this for at least 30 years when I heard that a man who is blind had done it using a two-way radio in contact with someone on the ground. When I found out that I could do it in tandem with someone who'd done it thousands of times, I knew I had to try it at least once. I contacted the Mile-Hi Skydiving Center in Longmont, Colo. and they said they had no problem with my doing it. The man who was my partner said he'd taken a number of blind people on jumps. He showed me the mechanics of it, including how to pull the rip cord. I asked how I'd know when to do that and he said he'd tell me.

It was very windy when we were falling but we could hear each other. I had a video taken of my jump and while we were falling, before I pulled the rip cord, the photographer grabbed my hand. That sounds impossible, but it can be done. After that initial split second of fear, I relaxed and enjoyed the fantastic feeling of speed. My partner told me when to pull the rip cord. Then he showed me the complete control one can have over speed and position. That was really surprising! He let me steer until we were about 250 feet from the ground. Then he took over. We landed right in the center of our target and very lightly in a sitting position. The experience was so exhilarating that I intend to do it again next summer.

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