Friday, October 31, 2008

A plane, a Team, and Gravity

The sky is perfectly clear and and the air still as we watch the painted black and gold plane climb, circling higher and higher above the small crowd of people standing at the edge of a huge drop zone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The people attending are close friends and family of the newly inducted members of the U.S. Army parachute team- "The Golden Knights". The plane, barely visible makes the third of its precise 3 minute 15 second passes as a small stream of white smoke appears from the plane. Murmurs race through the crowd and fingers point upward. The source of the smoke drifts slowly behind the plane and it becomes obvious that this is Rachel, free-falling with a smoke canister strapped to her heal. At the precise moment the smoke appeared, the P.A. system began playing loudly the song, "I'm Proud to be an American". Mom gazed upward at her plummeting daughter with her hands over her mouth, her eyes wet, repeating to herself, "not this song". From thirteen thousand feet away, I could feel the same sense of ultimate satisfaction and pride beaming from my sister as she continued her free-fall at over one hundred twenty miles per hour toward the earth, her smile visible from over two miles away. Her parachute opened at what appeared to be the last second and she glided and spun gracefully, and as the smoke from her heel painted beautiful pink swirls in the sky, she made her way to a perfect pin-point landing on a large red "x" placed on the field for the jumpers to aim for. She walked solemnly and proudly to the narrator's podium, shooting a glance and grin at mom and I as she walked. She then proceeded to narrate the 15 minute presentation verbatim and without written aid. The show was inspiring, but as I watched her fall, it made me realize once again that Rachel will always make me pale in my attempt at a life of true thrill and satisfaction. What can possibly tie you down when your job requires you to be thirteen thousand feet above the ground?