Falling from the Sky
Dave Dickison always wanted to skydive. A West Point graduate, he had his chances at jumping out of army planes -- but always with a static line. Dave wanted to freefall, and he wanted to freefall so badly he was not about to let anything get in his way, especially not paraplegia.
Dave was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 1992 -- only months before his scheduled graduation. He completed the course work for his B.S. in Computer Science from a VA hospital, with remote access to the campus mainframe computers and without marring his record of being on the Dean's list every semester. A year later, physical rehabilitation completed, he applied to the Lift program. By October Dave had completed a customized training program and began working for Lift under a full-time assignment to the Prudential. A year later, in October 1994, Dave completed the Lift program and was ready to start work as a full-time Prudential employee. But first he was going to take a few days off. He was going skydiving.
He drove out to Pennsylvania with three friends who wanted to watch and witness from the safety of the dirt under their feet. Dave jumped tandem with Dan Kellner, who holds the world record for number of parachute jumps. They were almost piggybacked, Dave's back to Dan's chest, two miles above the ground. When they fell into the sky Dave was awed by the furious sound of the wind rushing and pounding around them. The two men plummeted breathlessly through the screeching air for fifteen incredible minutes. Autumn leaves were bold and brilliant and lay far, far, below them. More than a dozen colorful hot air balloons took off nearby. Dave watched it all. He was not about to miss anything about that glorious flight.
Dan pulled the ripcord, and they suddenly slowed. The world fell silent, as if they had dropped into a piece of sky that sound could not penetrate. Dave steered the hand-toggles as Dan instructed him. There were only minutes left, and then Dave grabbed his pants legs for a soft landing on the earth they had -- however briefly -- escaped from.
Did Dave skydive again? Twice, and the next time a couple of friends from work got up their courage to jump with him. Dave says he cant wait to go again. He will soon have the chance -- at a bachelor party for a friend. Eight men will be celebrating in the air -- eight men who crave their own turns at plunging through the wind and the birds and the silence toward Mother Earth far below, waiting, always waiting.
Update: 8/23/2000 - Twice more wasn't enough for Dave. He's jumped a total of nine times to date. He now lives in California, and hasn't tried west coast skydiving -- yet.