my fiction story

    The sand scratched at her toes as Bailey tramped down the beach, attempting to keep herself upright on the uneven surface as she clutched the hem of her maxi-dress in one hand and allowed her heels to dangle from the opposite hand’s fingers. She was drunk already, after only her third flute of champagne. She’d always been somewhat of a lightweight; her mother even teased her about it, endlessly.
    Another flaw to add to the list, she thought bitterly. Unmarried, childless, starving artist….gay. Her mother could never truly accept that last part. She’d thrown a fit the night Bailey had finally shoved her way out of the closet after the tenth—and final—attempt at a blind date. She just couldn’t take it anymore. Mom had acted exactly as she’d predicted, thrown Bailey out of the house, screaming while her daughter sobbed. The scared teen girl had taken a cab, and what little she could carry on her back, to her father’s place in the hopes that he wouldn’t react as badly. Surprisingly, he didn’t and welcomed her in with open arms to his studio, surrounding her with drying paintings of the sea and mythical creatures.
    “There’s not much room,” he’d said, as if apologizing for his kindness, “but we’ll make some, huh?” He’d used the self-made corner kitchenette to prepare them both a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches and hot cocoa. Then he spent all of that night telling her stories of the mythical sea creatures he loved to paint. About the lonely Loch Ness Monster and the spiteful sirens; the stories reminded Bailey of her childhood and she soon found herself drifting to his voice. Like a lullaby. When she’d woken up the next morning, she had twenty six messages from her mother; half of them were of her frantically asking where her darling daughter had gone, as if the previous night hadn’t happened. The rest were half-hearted apologies that she never acknowledged thereafter. Bailey wouldn’t have gone back if it weren’t for her father’s insistence.
    “You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t try to work things out, Bay,” he’d said, using the childhood nickname that her mother had always hated. “I know I do.” Bailey didn’t know how that was possible, but his words were sincere and so she went. Upon her arrival home, her mother wrapped her in her arms and pressed kisses all over her face. She rubbed her back and rocked back and forth on her feet and whispered her love in Bailey’s ear, but all Bailey could hear was the lack of apologies on her tongue now. Even the simplest ‘sorry, honey’ would have made everything better. But it never came.Mothers never had to say sorry, she guessed.
    That was over five years ago, though, and now, as Bailey walks down the beach, away from her youngest sister’s wedding—which came far too early, in Bailey’s opinion, considering Lydia was only 19 and still foolish—she wondered if the look of distaste her mother gave her when she talked to anybody of the female gender was intentional or not. Whether the lack of interest in Bailey’s first showcase—a series of paintings inspired by her father—was because she was too distracted showing off pictures of her first grandson and doctor son-in-law or because she really did not care for Bailey’s chosen career, so similar to her ex-husband’s. Her father had not made it to his youngest daughter’s wedding. His poor heart hadn’t been able to make it this far and he’d passed on some thirteen months before. He’d left the majority of his paintings to her and a few select ones to his three other children; a fairy in a jungle of overgrown daffodils for Kate; a dragon flying over the sea for Sean; a beautiful sorceress for Lydia. They all had theirs framed and hung in their family homes, but Bailey’s remained in the studio. For now. Until the lease ran out two months from now.Then she had no idea where to put them.
    It was the one thing she’d been stressing over all night, as she watched Lydia say her vows to Vincent, her boyfriend of a year, and denied three young men dances, as her mother glared at her while she talked to one of Vincent’s sisters, who was married anyway. She’d barely given any thought to marriage or children of her own until the Best Man made his speech and it hit her just how far she was from either of those things. Then she’d drank three glasses of champagne and snuck away from the festivities. She doubted anybody noticed, anyway.She must have walked a mile down the beach before she reached a dock that stretched a few hundred feet outward. The wood was warm as it met the sanded skin of her soles and she reveled in it as the ocean breeze blew through the straggly strands of her sandy blonde hair. She’d always been complimented on her hair, and her cornflower blue eyes, by everybody but her mother who detested the length Bailey preferred.She clenched her jaw and shut her eyes against the thought of her mother; no good came from that. When she opened them again, she was at the end of the dock, her toes skirting the edge of the rough, splintered wood. There was no guardrail and for a hopeless moment, Bailey thought of jumping into the dark blue depths to see where they would take her. Anywhere was better than here.
    But she didn’t. She stayed on the dock. She sat down, allowing her shorter than usual legs to dangle below, feet barely submerged in the comforting coolness. She took a deep breath and allowed her muscles to relax for the first time in hours.But when she felt something brush against her toes, she tensed once again, her feet immediately retracting from the water until her knees were pressed to her chest. She watched the water with wide eyes, and her heart pounded when she noticed a shadow in its depths. It didn’t move for a long while, but then it did.A crown of white hair rose above the surface, a pair of dark green eyes appearing beneath the wet bangs. Then there was a nose and then a pair of think green lips. The creature’s skin was a pale—but not sickly—green and its cheeks were rounded, the chin pointed slightly. Not of it was unattractive. It, in fact, looked like a she.This was confirmed when the shoulders and torso also emerged. Bailey looked away, embarrassed as she discovered this beautiful…woman (?) was topless. The naked woman tilted her head at that.
    “I’m so sorry,” Bailey said, shielding her eyes. “I didn’t know you were here; I should…I should go. I’ll give you a little privacy.” She began to stand. “Privacy?” the woman asked, her voice lyrical and carrying a strange echo-quality. “What does this word mean?” That’s odd, Bailey thought to herself. But she’s probably a foreigner. “Privacy,” she explained, settling back down, “is when you want to be alone.” “I do not,” the woman said. “Nobody wants to be alone. That is absurd.” “Why?” Bailey asked. After all, she wanted to be alone. She usually was alone. “Because when you are alone, you are likely to be lonely,” the strange woman told her. “Nobody likes lonely.” Bailey had no argument for that. So she changed the subject: “Why are you swimming out here naked?” she asked.“Naked?” the woman asked. “What is this word?’
    Bailey sighed. This woman, though her voice was strange, was obviously not unfamiliar with English; she should know this word at least. “When you don’t wear clothes,” she sighed, exasperated. “Where are your clothes, by the way?” “I know not what ‘clothes’ are, nor do I believe I have them,” the woman said, squinting her eyes a little. “Your tail is strange.” Bailey’s eyes widened at that and turned her head to stare at her bottom. She didn’t have a tail. “What are you--?” She practically fell into the water at the sight of a large, scaly, navy blue tail that appeared just next to the woman, her heart pounding as she realized what, exactly, she was dealing with here. “Are you a…?” She couldn’t even finish her sentence as the tail swished, almost appearing to be involuntary and she shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut tightly. This cannot be happening, she thought to herself. Sirens don’t— But then she opened her eyes at there she was, a siren looking right up at her, tail still swishing behind her, head tilted and hair beginning to dry in the hot summer air. “I am Serena,” the siren informed her. “My name is ironic, I know, but I was named by my human mother before I received my tail.” “R-received?” Bailey asked. “You mean…you weren’t born with a tail?” Serena shook her head. “Sirens are rarely born; there aren’t enough males to fertilize us.”“Then how…?”
    “My mother passed when I was a toddler—I do not even remember her name or her warmth—and my stepfather, who they tell me was a heartless man, brought me out to the ocean to drown. My adoptive mothers saved my life and gave me a tail so that I could survive with them in the ocean. It’s the way most of us are made.” “Mothers?” It was a stupid thing to get stuck on, truthfully, but it was the thing that rang most loudly for Bailey. “You had more than one?” The siren nodded. “Of course. With very few males to populate us, sirens often mate in pairs of females, if at all. Female mates bond for life and raise their adopted offspring together. Only sometimes do you see a male and a female siren with natural-born siren children. But that is not how I was raised.” Bailey’s entire body began to tingle at that. She had never once considered the possibility that she...that sirens…that… Her mind with swimming with the information she’d just received.
    “How do….is it possible…can an adult human become a siren?” she asked. She had not expected those words to come tumbling from her mouth, but they did. It was also at that moment when she discovered that that was a question she was very interested in knowing the answer to. She leaned forward, her dress falling down her thighs as she waited for Serena’s answer. The siren frowned. “I don’t know,” she said, deep in thought. “I don’t recall ever meeting a human before this day. Usually, we are not allowed to come above the surface.” “Usually? What changed that?” Bailey asked. “You kicked my head,” Serena informed her with a slight glare. “Sorry,” Bailey said. “I am unharmed,” Serena assured her, “but I do not know the answer to your question. I would have to ask my mothers. Will you be here again tomorrow?” The beach was far out of her way—the studio and her apartment were both on the other side of town and it would take at least a half hour to get here at any time of day—but she nodded, anyway. “Yes,” said Bailey. “I will be here.” The siren nodded. “Then I will meet you when the sun is highest in the sky,” she said. Noon, Bailey’s mind supplied for her. I can do noon. “Deal,” she said. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Serena.” “I will see you tomorrow as well, Human,” Serena replied and disappeared beneath the surface. “Bailey!” the woman shouted after her. “My name is Bailey!” Serena surfaced a dozen feet away. “I’ll see you soon, Human Bailey!” she called, then waved and dove under once again. Bailey watched for a few moments, as her shadow moved farther and farther until it was gone, the setting sun glittering over the horizon. Her entire body continued to tingle in excitement as a smile spread across her lips.

    By dorkwriter, in News,

    Paratroopers Injured in Jump

    SYDNEY (Reuters) - For some of the best paratroopers in the United States and Australia, men used to jumping into war zones, it was supposed to be a routine night mission. But 52 of them hit the ground with a thud, breaking bones and spraining ankles during a recent joint military exercise called Tandem Thrust in the Australian state of Queensland.
    A total of 39 soldiers were hurt on impact -- nine with broken bones -- and another 13 have since reported injuries such as ankle sprains, an official said.

    The 381 paratroopers on the night jump came from the U.S. Army's crack Geronimo 501, the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, and Australia's rapid-deployment 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
    But with little visibility last Saturday, the crack paratroopers did what they are trained not to do -- reach for the ground with their toes.
    "Night jumping is typically more dangerous because it is difficult to see the ground," U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Bobby Campbell told Reuters on Friday.
    Campbell said the conditions were perfect for the jump with little breeze, except there was no moon to light up the ground.
    "The soldiers reached for the ground with their toes, something they are trained not to do," said Campbell.
    Campbell said injuries were to be expected in night jumps, but they were a critical training exercise for the U.S. and Australia, citing the arc of Asian-Pacific instability to Australia's north.
    "It is a capacity both the United States and Australia needs to maintain for its strategic interests in the region," he said.

    By admin, in News,

    Fatality at Air Capital Skydiving Center, Kansas

    Geoff Peggs, Age 21, died in a skydiving accident on Friday, June 15th in Wichita, Kansas. Geoff was making his 5th or 6th jump with a Birdman suit when he exited the Cessna 182 from 11,000 feet. Witnesses on the ground observed deployment at an estimated 4,000 feet AGL. The main parachute started to spin immediately after deployment and continued until impact. The Coroner stated that the injuries sustained upon impact caused immediate death.
    Two USPA S&TA;'s, in cooperation with the Sedgwick County Sheriff and Coroners office conducted the investigation at the scene. The investigation showed that the right suspension lines were routed under Geoff's right arm and wrapped tightly around his right leg. The slider was wrapped around his right foot.. The canopy, a cobalt 150, was fully deployed but with this "horsehoe" malfunction the canopy started an unrecoverable spin. The cutaway handle was unaccessible because of the way the suspension lines pressed the birdman wing against his body, totally covering the cutaway handle. It is the consensus of the two S&TA;'s investigating this incident that even if Geoff could have cut away, the suspension lines were so severely wrapped around the arms, legs, and foot that it would not have made a difference in clearing the malfunction.
    The reserve was not deployed, but the reserved handle was dislodged, most likely as a result of impact.
    The S&TA;'s concur in their opinion that this incident was probably the result of deploying in an unstable body position. We have no way of knowing for sure if the Birdman suit was the only contributing factor, but since Geoff was a jumper with approx 300 jumps and no history of problems prior to this incident, Geoff's limited experience with the Birdman suit was most likely a factor in creating an unstable body position at deployment, resulting in a horsehoe malfunction. Unfortunately, because of the nature of this particular situation, Geoff was left with little or no options to correct the situation.
    Geoff was an INCREDIBLE guy. He seemed to fit in wherever he jumped and truly had a passion for skydiving. He was a student at Kansas State University and was planning an exciting career in aviation. He will be greatly missed by all of us.
    The funeral arrangments are being handled by Downing & Lahey Mortuary in Wichita, Kansas (316) 682-4553. The funeral is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20th. Please call the mortuary for the exact time. I think the best thing we can do to show our support for Geoff's family is to attend the funeral. The family knows how much skydiving meant to Geoff. We need to show them how much Geoff meant to us.
    God Speed Geoff!
    Phil Haase, Owner
    Air Capital Skydiving Center
    Wichita, Kansas

    By admin, in News,

    Fatality at Skydive Delmarva

    On Sunday June 10th @ about 1.50pm 45 year old Peter Tome an experienced skydiver with 600+ jumps and 10 years in the sport, along with two other experienced skydivers made a 3 way headdown skydive from the Twin Otter @ Skydive Delmarva.
    The dive was uneventful until break off at 6,000 ft. At break off as Pete tracked away another jumper on the dive observed what is believed to have been Pete's main bridle flapping on his back. It is believed that the pin extracted from the main pack tray and that a horseshoe malfunction occurred.
    It is believed that Pete was unable to extract the pilot chute from its pouch and was left with no other option but to cutaway and deploy his reserve parachute. The main canopy was held in the D-bag by one rubber band stow that contained some of the lines from the group. The reserve freebag did not completely clear the reserve and the bulk of the reserve canopy remained held in the freebag by one rubber band stow. Partial inflation of the reserve canopy occurred pulling Pete vertical. He was observed by others on the load and ground observers to be attempting to clear the problem until impact on the grass runway at which time he died immediately.
    We at Skydive Delmarva all feel a great loss and sorrow in losing our good friend today.
    We will miss you Pete, God Speed and God Bless You.
    Your friends and family at Skydive Delmarva.

    By admin, in News,

    Skydiving couple tell of Tandem Emergency

    A SKYDIVER who plummeted 13,000ft to earth with his bride after their main parachute failed to open spoke yesterday about the accident. Kevin McIlwee, 47, said from his hospital bed in France: "I didn't have time to think whether we were going to get through it or not."
    He said, however, that as he fought to control the descent over the town of Vannes in Brittany, he confided to his wife of six weeks, Beverley, 44, who was strapped in front of him: "We might not make it."
    Watching colleagues did not expect them to survive, but the couple, who had regularly skydived in tandem, crash-landed on grass, escaping with severe leg injuries.
    Mr McIlwee, a maths teacher from De la Salle College, Jersey, said that their main parachute failed to open at the regulation 5,000ft when they made their jump on Sunday.

    He said: "I found I just couldn't jettison the chute. I tried to engage the reserve chute but the two couldn't fly side by side."
    Mr McIlwee, a skydiving instructor who has made more than 4,000 jumps, said: "The parachutes were continually tangling and I was doing my best to control them. I have no idea at what speed we hit the ground. We were very lucky. We could have been a lot worse."
    Mr McIlwee suffered a badly broken leg and his wife, the manager of the Seabird Hotel chain in Jersey, suffered broken bones in both feet, and a broken knee and shin bone. The couple are expected to travel home to Jersey by air ambulance in about a week.
    Mrs McIlwee, who has enjoyed skydiving for about five years, told her father, Dennis Murtaugh, by telephone that she intended to give up the sport. She has had metal plates inserted in her legs and will be in a wheelchair for many weeks.
    Mr Murtaugh, 67, a theatre critic from Burnley, said: "She said she felt so lucky to be alive. She's usually such a bubbly person, but was understandably talking in a weak tone. She was very shook up, and was only just starting to realise that what had happened could have cost her life."
    "She said she was looking out of the window from her hospital bed enjoying seeing the daylight and the birds outside."
    Mr Murtaugh added: "Kevin is a hell of a fellow, and he knows what he is doing. I put it down to his experience as a skydiving expert that they are here today at all. It's a God-given miracle that they are both alive."

    By admin, in News,

    GoPro Goes Small With The Hero 4 Session

    GoPro announced the latest addition to their line of action cameras this week with the reveal of the GoPro Hero 4 Session. The Session is small, really small -- about the same size as an ice cube and according to GoPro, it has been in development for several years now. With its reduced size, it will allow for easier mounting, especially for those looking for something to strap to their wrists.
    Unfortunately, early reports suggest that the decrease in size does not come without a cost. You should not expect the same recording quality, nor the features that are present with the Hero 4 Silver or Black. In their venture to create their smallest action camera yet, GoPro had to make sacrifices on both fronts and you'll only be seeing still images with a maximum resolution of 8 megapixels from the Session. Being less than 1.5 inches in diameter, it goes without saying that you won't be receiving any touch screen or image preview functionality.
    The cube design features a small LCD screen at the top and just two buttons, the main of which will control all your recording settings and control, while the smaller button is merely a wifi on/off button. Bound to be frustrating to some is that one cannot change between single and burst mode through the camera and requires use of the GoPro app in order to change these settings. There are some positives to mention though, with battery life being one of them. The Hero 4 Session is able to last up to 2 hours while running, better than the battery life seen in the other Hero 4 cameras.
    Recording Abilities
    While one may expect 4k recording from the Hero 4 Session, you're not going to find it. You can however record at a maximum of 30fps at 1440p or 60fps at 1080p. For those looking to get 100fps out of their recording, you will be able to do so at a 720p recording resolution. Overall it is somewhat to be expected, given the size and already clear limitations with the product, however we would have liked to at least see 100fps at 1080p and perhaps 60fps at the 1440p range.
    The reality is still however, that for the most part 4k recording is overkill and for vast majority of uses 1080p will suffice just fine.
    Another potentially frustrating aspect to the Session design is because of the cubed shape, some early testers of the camera found that it was easy to hold the wrong way around without noticing. This is likely not going to be a problem for too many people, who will have the device mounted, but for those going handheld, make sure you don't hold it at 90 degrees, or you'll need to do some post-process rotation adjustments.
    From what we've seen, it appears as though the Session is intended for those looking to create easy and quick HD videos, in the occasional circumstances where the other GoPro models may be too large. Priced at a whopping $400, we are struggling to see too many reasons for the average athlete to opt for the Session over the Hero 4 Silver, which at the same price comes with 4k recording, 4 more megapixels as well as a touch screen.
    It's Not All Doom and Gloom
    Don't get too caught up in the negative aspects of the Hero 4 Session however, it's still an extremely competent looking camera and while the recording quality may not be the best that GoPro has given us, it's more than enough for your average user who isn't looking for the clearest quality around.
    It comes standard with 10 meter water proofing, meaning no extra housing needed for most practical uses.
    The most obvious of the positives however, is the size. Being less than 1.5 inches allows for its use in situations where you may otherwise have struggled. For those who use wrist mounts for their GoPro, the session will definitely serve a purpose. A question that will also obviously come to the minds of many, will be how it compares to the other GoPro series with regards to snag risk.
    While we haven't been able to see first hand how the Session will handle a snag scenario, there is a lot less surface area so the odds of your lines getting caught seem lower, but the way the mount clamp is positioned in relation to the camera itself, it seems that there remains a risk for snagging between the clamp and the camera. This is something that could be helped a lot by the development of custom mounts, which will no doubt be developed some time after release.
    If you're currently an owner of a Hero 3 or Hero 4 and shoot regular helmet mounted video footage, we can't see any reason for you to switch out for the Hero 4 Session, but if you're looking for an extra camera for a wrist mount or another area where size is an important factor, the Hero 4 Session may be worth looking into -- if you're willing to fork out the $400.

    By admin, in News,

    Skydiver dies after hitting propeller of another plane

    SAN MARCOS, Texas (AP) - A parachutist was killed instantly when she struck a plane's propeller while practicing a skydiving formation with 29 other jumpers. Michele Thibaudeau, 36, and eight other parachutists were in one airplane Sunday and the other 21 jumpers were on a second aircraft.
    After jumping, Thibaudeau hit the propeller of the other aircraft and was killed on impact, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman John Clabes said.
    Thibaudeau's boyfriend, who was last in line to jump from the plane, followed her body 14,000 feet to its impact in Fentress, according to Sky Dive San Marcos owner Phillip Chappell.
    The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating.
    "I've never heard of anything like that before," Clabes said. "You hear about fatalities when people jump out of planes and their chutes don't open, but not this."
    Thibaudeau, of Cartersville, Ga., had completed more than 850 jumps.
    All the parachutists had completed a minimum of 400 jumps, double the number the U.S. Parachute Association uses to determine expert status, Chappell said.

    By admin, in News,

    Perris Tunnel Training Camp for Women

    For the first time Skydive Perris is organizing a tunnel training camp for women only at SkyVenture Perris. Nina Kuebler and Synchronicity are the organizers. In addition to what the Perris Performance Plus already offers, we now are hosting an all female 4-way tunnel and skydiving camp.
    DZ.com: Why organize a women’s only tunnel camp?
    Nina: The tunnel as a training tool has changed the way we skydive, so the learning curve for individual flying skill is much steeper. I find that a considerable number of skydivers, particularly females, think that the tunnel is something for “serious 4-way freaks” only, and therefore never consider trying it out themselves.
    By getting more people interested in newer training developments we certainly help the sport overall, thus giving as many people as possible the chance to feel the exhilaration of flying their body aggressively.
    Many females are intimidated by the somewhat competitive atmosphere of the predominantly male clientele and staff of “traditional” camps. After hosting several camps at Perris using the successful formula of tunnel flying and jumping, we have experienced how different skydivers respond to different coaching, particularly how females respond fruitfully to female coaching.

    DZ.com: That sounds kind of like the same concept as establishing the women’s division in 4-way in order to draw more females in the sport.
    Nina: Exactly. Last year we had 9 all girl teams competing at the US Nationals, which was a great turnout. It was also my first time to compete with an all girl team (4something, thanks again ladies!!!)
    With the nationals being in Perris, we are expecting an even more exciting female competition.
    DZ.com: Does the girl only camp also refer to the staff?
    Nina: Watching another woman fly powerfully and aggressively is certainly the strongest inspiration and motivation to do just he same. In other words: Yes, this is a stricktly female coaching staff.
    DZ.com: Do you in general support all girl events?
    Nina: I do believe in 4-way, in physical flying and strong moves – of which both genders are equally capable.
    I have benefited from male coaches, and being on a male team, I have learned to push myself to the greatest extent possible. However, my flying style is different from my male teammate’s style; therefore I think a female student can benefit from a female coach.
    I believe that there are an infinite number of individual learning behaviors. Consequently in the coach/student–relationship is paramount for the coach to communicate (in the physical demonstration and the verbal explanation) with any student in an understandable way.
    I am very much looking forward to share what I had the chance to learn in 6 years of training 4-way and 8-way with other females.

    By admin, in News,

    Oakland Skydiver Dies After Losing Consciousness

    Lodi, May 27 - The San Joaquin County Sheriff's office reports that an Oakland man died Saturday after jumping with a group of parachutists, possibly from a mid-air emergency that might have started on the ground. "It appears that the decedent suffered some sort of a medical emergency during the jump which incapacitated him, disallowing him to properly and safely complete the landing," said spokesman Joe Herrera of the San Joaquin Sheriff's Department.
    An autopsy will be needed to determine the cause of death. The man has been identified as 52-year-old Daniel Paul Skarry, of Oakland. He was discovered by occupants of a home after he landed in the back yard, crashing down with his parachute between some trees on the property.
    Other jumpers made no mention of noticing anything unusual at the start, according to subsequent interviews with deputies.
    "The parachutist had been jumping for at least 15 years. He was one of 22 jumpers who had left Lodi Airport to jump in formation. The initial jump went fine and the decedent joined a group held together at the wrist," said Herrera.
    According to one of the jumpers holding the man's wrist, Skarry's grip became weaker, then gave way. They had started from an altitude of 15,000 feet.
    The group watched helplessly as Skarry got below them and seemed not to move, except where pushed by the wind, Herrera said.
    When he reached the 1,000-foot level, the parachute's automatic activation device switched itself on. He fell to the ground amid trees in a residential yard, Herrera said.
    The occupants of the house called for help. Skarry was taken by helicopter to the hospital at UC Davis, but was pronounced dead at 11:48 a.m. after medics unsuccessfully performed CPR, Herrera said.
    The Federal Aviation Administration will be notified of the incident, and the coroner's report may be conducted in Sacramento County, Herrera said.

    Skarry may have already had hypertension and diabetes, Herrera said.

    By admin, in News,

    Above All Else (Excerpt) - Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld

    In this book world famous competitive skydiver and coach Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld presents proven tools and techniques for success and explains how they can be used in everyday life. Dan survived a plane crash from which sixteen of the twenty-two people on board were killed. He was left critically injured and woke up from a six-week-long coma with a broken neck, broken skull, severe head trauma, a collapsed lung, and other serious internal injuries. Against all odds, Dan recovered and went on to become one of the greatest competitive skydiver in the world.

    His book is available on Amazon.com
    Waking Up
    Something was wrong. I was groggy, fading in and out. My body felt tired, weighted down. What was going on?
    I tried to see but my eyelids were too heavy to lift. I summoned all the strength I could but still didn’t have the power to peel them open. The last thing I could recall was training with my new skydiving team, Airmoves. After nine years of competition, much of which was spent living in my van and eating out of a cooler so that I could afford team training, the owners of the Perris Valley Skydiving Center in California had presented me with a team sponsorship opportunity. I would get to pick and run the team. They would cover the training costs.
    This was it, the opportunity I had always hoped for. Since money wasn’t an issue, I was able to pick the teammates I most wanted. The first person I called was James Layne. I had known James since he was eleven and had taught him to jump when he was only fourteen. His whole family had worked at my drop zone in Ohio.
    James was like a little brother to me. Even before his very first jump seven years earlier, we had decided that someday we were going to win
    the national and world championships together. This was our chance, a dream come true.
    Troy Widgery was next on my list. Troy was a young entrepreneur and good friend whom I had coached when he was on the University of
    Colorado Skydiving Team. At the collegiate national championships a year earlier, I had told James and Troy that somehow, someday, I was going to get them both on my team.

    Richard Stuart had been the camera flyer on my previous team, the Fource. But like me, Richard still just hadn’t had enough of team training and competition.
    To fill the one remaining position, I held tryouts. Tom Falzone outperformed
    the rest and completed the team lineup. Perris Airmoves was born.
    We were five months into our training and had made about 350 practice jumps. Everything was going better than I had ever imagined, and I have quite an imagination. We were improving at an unheard-of pace and had already gone head-to-head with some of the top teams in the country. The U.S. Nationals gold medal was in our sights.
    And then . . .
    The crust on my eyelashes glued them shut. Using the muscles in my forehead, I finally pried them open a crack. A faint white light was all I could see, like I was inside of a cloud. It was silent. Where was I waking up? Was I waking up? Was I dead?
    I had no idea what was happening, how I got here, or what was going on. But I did have one absolutely vivid image in my head, a crystal clear picture of something that seemed to have happened just moments before waking up. It wasn’t a dream. It was as real as any real-world experience I had ever had. I could remember the entire thing, every action, every word, and every thought.
    It went like this: I was in free fall. Almost as if I had just appeared there. I love free fall, and finding myself there at that moment seemed
    natural. I was at home, at peace, part of the infinite sky.
    But after a few seconds I noticed that this wasn’t normal free fall. It was quieter. The wind wasn’t blowing as fast. I wasn’t descending.
    A gentle breeze was suspending me. It was okay, it was fine. I was floating, flying, but it wasn’t right. What was I doing there? I wasn’t
    afraid. I felt safe, but confused.
    I looked up and saw James flying down to me just as if we were on a skydive together and he was “swooping” me. His expression was that silly, playful smile he so often had in free fall. He was obviously not confused at all. He knew exactly where he was and what he was doing there.
    He flew down and stopped in front of me. Still with a smile on his face, he asked, “Danny, what are you doing here?”
    I answered, “I don’t know.”
    James said, “You’re not supposed to be here, you have to get back down there.” I began to get a grasp of the situation.
    I asked him, “Are you coming with me?”
    His expression changed to one with a hint of sadness. He said, “No, I can’t.”
    I tried to persuade him to change his mind, “C’mon, James, we were just getting started. You gotta come with me.”
    James raised his voice, interrupting me. “I can’t!” It was obvious that the decision was final. It seemed as if it wasn’t his decision. He
    continued with a gentle smile. “I can’t, but it’s okay. There are more places to go, more things to do, more fun to have. Tell my mom it’s okay. Tell her I’m okay.”
    For a few seconds we just looked at each other as I accepted this for the reality it was. He changed his tone and spoke with some authority
    as he gave me an order. “Now,” he said, “you need to get back down there. You need to go get control of the situation.” I unquestioningly
    accepted this as well, still not knowing what the situation was that he was referring to.
    James stuck out his hand palm down, the way we always did when practicing our “team count,” our “ready, set, go” cadence we would use to synchronize our exit timing. A couple of minutes before exiting the plane on a training jump, we would always huddle up and practice this count. The purpose was as much to get psyched up for
    the jump as to rehearse the cadence. I put my hand on top of his. He put his other hand on top of mine. I put my other hand on top of
    his. We looked each other in the eyes. Both of us with gentle smiles of love and confidence and sadness. James started the count. “Ready.” I
    joined in as we finished it together. “Set. Go.” As was our routine, we clapped and then popped our hands together, locking them in a long,
    strong, brotherly grasp.
    James had one more thing to say, and he said it with absolute certainty,
    “I’ll see you later.” It was clearly not a “good-bye.” I had no doubt that we would see each other again. Before I had even thought
    about an answer, the words “I know” came out of my mouth. Slowly I started to descend. As I did, James began to fade from my grip. The wind picked up as I was now falling through it, no longer suspended by it. Everything went black.
    As I woke, James’s words, “Get control of the situation,” still rang clearly in my mind. If only I knew what the situation was. I knew I wasn’t dead. I squinted, trying to see more clearly. The white light slowly brightened. A few small red and green lights came into view. As if coming from a distance, faint electrical beeping sounds began to reverberate from the silence.
    My vision started to sharpen. I could see I was surrounded with lights, gauges, hoses, and wires running in every direction. The glowing white light wasn’t the heavens. It was the bedsheets and ceiling paint of an ICU hospital room.
    I stared straight up from flat on my back, the position I found myself in. What’s the situation? I thought that James and I must have been in some kind of accident together. James was gone and I wasn’t. I tried to pick my head up to look around the room. My head wouldn’t move. I tried to turn my head to look to the side; it wouldn’t move. Oh my God, I thought. I can’t move my head. I’m paralyzed. It can’t be true. Don’t let it be true. This can’t be the situation. I was filled with a sense of fear far greater than anything I had ever experienced before. I felt myself starting to give up and caught myself. Don’t panic, don’t panic. I closed my eyes, took a breath, and tried to calm down. It’s got to be something else, there has to be more. I told myself not to come to any conclusions too soon, to pause and re-evaluate the situation. I started again.
    I opened my eyes. I could see a little more clearly now, and there was no doubt I was definitely in a hospital bed complete with all the bells, whistles, buzzers, and instruments. I tried to move my head again. It wouldn’t budge. “Stay cool, stay cool. Try something else,” I
    told myself.
    I tried to move my toes. I thought I felt something, but I couldn’t lift my head to see them to confirm. I remembered hearing about
    people who were paralyzed but had ghost movements when it felt as though they could move even though they couldn’t. “Stay cool, Dan, stay cool. Look for options. Try something else.” I had to talk myself through it every step of the way.I tried to wiggle my fingers. It felt like they moved. I tried to move my hands. I could swear they worked. Did they move? I couldn’t turn my head to see my hands but nearly stretched my eyes out of their sockets trying to look down to verify that my hands were actually moving.
    Peering past the horizon of the bedsheet, there were no hands in sight. I tried to lift my hands higher. They felt so heavy. Were they moving, or was it my imagination wishing them to move? Slowly, I saw the bedsheet rise. Like the sun rising in the morning, slow but certain. I brought my hands all the way up right in front of my face, trying to prove to myself that it wasn’t a hallucination. I stretched out my fingers, clenched my fists, and then stretched them out again. I put my hands together to see if my right hand could feel my left and my left hand feel my right. They worked. Yes! What an incredible relief. My arms and hands weren’t paralyzed. Okay, so far so good, back to my legs. I tried again to move my toes and lift my feet. They were too far away to see and too heavy to lift. I gathered all the strength I had, as
    if I was trying to bench-press four hundred pounds, and focused it on my knees. Ever so slowly, the bedsheet started to lift. Slowly my knees came up high enough that I could see they were moving. I wasn’t paralyzed, not at all.
    Get Dan's Book from Amazon.com I still didn’t know what the situation was, but no matter what, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. I felt a sudden relief, and though I had never been a person who prayed very often, without even thinking I found myself thanking God forlessening my burden.
    Why couldn’t I move my head, though? I reached up with both my newly working hands to feel my head. As I did, I came in contact with two metal rods. As I explored further I realized my head was in a cage. I couldn’t move my head not because I wasn’t capable but because it was being held still by a halo brace.
    My neck must be broken. But for a person who moments earlier thought he was completely paralyzed, a broken neck seemed like the
    common cold. The experience of thinking I was paralyzed from head to toe was truly a gift. It would forever put things in perspective for
    me. I decided at that moment that I would never complain about my injuries, no matter what they were.
    But what had happened? I asked the doctor, but he skirted the question and instead filled me in on my condition. In addition to breaking my neck, I had a collapsed lung, cracked skull, a severe concussion, and crushed insides causing other internal injuries. It’s hard to believe, but none of this really fazed me. It was still much better
    news than I had feared. I asked him again, “What happened?” He acted like he didn’t hear me.
    The doctor was concerned about the nerve and brain damage but seemed confident that I would ultimately be able to walk out of the hospital and lead a relatively normal life, as long as my normal life didn’t include any contact sports or rigorous activity at all. I would
    certainly never skydive again.
    A little while later, Kristi, my girlfriend, came in. I asked her what had happened, but she dodged the question. I kept asking her, pushing
    her; I had to know. Finally she said, “It’s bad, Dan, it’s so bad.” That was the first time it occurred to me that if James and I were in an accident of some kind, it was likely that the other members of Airmoves were in the same accident. I asked her again what had happened.
    “It’s so bad” was all she could say. I pushed her relentlessly. Finally, she told me. There was a plane crash. A plane crash? I hadn’t
    even considered a plane crash. I realized what that could mean and tried to prepare for the worst, that my entire team may be gone. The
    sudden emotional barrage that hit me was overwhelming. I was starting to lose control and caught myself. I closed my eyes, took a breath,
    and calmed myself down.
    I later learned that Kristi had been by my side since the crash. She and my friends and family did not know how, if and when I woke up,
    they would tell me that James was gone. I asked her, “How’s my team?” She tried to speak, but still, the only words she could muster were, “It’s bad, Dan, it’s so bad.”
    I needed an answer. I said, “I know James is gone. How is the rest of the team?” She froze in disbelief. She looked at me, staring deeply
    into my eyes, and asked, “How do you know that?”
    I answered directly, “He told me.”
    She continued to stare at me, wondering how that was possible. Almost relieved that I already knew about James, Kristi told me that, compared to me, my other teammates were fine. Troy and Tom were banged up and had broken a few bones. Troy had to have surgery on his hip. But all things considered, they were basically okay.
    Richard had missed the plane. His camera helmet broke just minutes before we boarded, and he had asked another cameraman to take his place while he went to fix it. In the thousands of training jumps Richard and I had together, I could never remember him missing a jump. Kristi was quiet. There was more.
    We were flying in the Twin Otter, which carries twenty-two people. It was worse than I thought, way worse. For some reason, I had assumed that Airmoves had been alone in a single-engine Cessna. Of the twenty-two people on board, sixteen had died in the crash. Most of them my friends, including Dave Clarke, the cameraman who took Richard’s place.
    The emotional bombardment continued as Kristi told me who we lost. The names included members of Tomscat, a team from Holland that I was coaching, the pilots, instructors, and camera flyers who worked at the skydiving school, and students who were there for their first jump, in what was supposed to have been an experience of a lifetime for them. Kristi was right: It was bad. So, so bad.
    Because I was just learning about this, I had assumed that it had all just happened. As I was absorbing this information, I was hit with
    another shocker. The crash had occurred over a month ago. I had been in a coma for nearly six weeks. How could that be? I picked up my
    arms and held them in front of my face. They looked skeletal. I had lost forty pounds. I touched my face and discovered a beard. It was true. What hell the families and friends must have been going through over the last month while I had the luxury of being unconscious. What sorrow and grief they must have been experiencing. I felt so badly for them, and guilty that I wasn’t there to be with them through this difficult time.
    It immediately occurred to me that I had to be strong. It may have been new to me, but they had been dealing with it for over a month. I
    was experiencing this grief for the first time, but I would have to do so on my own. I didn’t want to drag my friends and family back through
    it all again.
    If only they knew what I knew. If only James had been able to share with each of them what he shared with me. I knew that our friends
    were gone, but that they were okay. I knew they had more places to go, more things to do, and more fun to have. I knew we hadn’t said good-bye, only, “See you later.” I wanted to share this with everyone, but I also knew that they would think I was nuts and that the brain damage I had suffered was more severe than they thought. I kept it to myself, except for telling one person. As James had requested, I called his mother, my dear friend Rita, from my hospital bed and passed his message on to her.
    “You need to go get control of the situation.” What exactly did James mean? I thought about that a lot. I believe he was alerting me to the fact that I was about to wake up in a different world than the one before the crash. I would be arriving in the middle of a situation that was overrun by sadness, fear, helplessness, and defeat. I believe he was warning me that many people were going to try to define the situation for me and tell me what my limitations were. He was telling me not to be a victim, not to let anyone but me decide my fate and that I didn’t have to let go of my dreams. There was more to “life” than what we experience in this physical world. He was telling me it was all okay. James was reminding me that prior to the crash, I had taken control of my life. I had found an activity that I loved, pushed myself to be the best I could possibly be at it, and set my sights on becoming the best in the world. I had shown the courage to follow my dreams and the faith in the world to believe that the few things that were out of my control would work out as they should. This attitude toward life had never steered me wrong in the past. And it wouldn’t then. I believed him. I trusted him. And I decided.
    Human beings are born dreamers. Through dreams we explore our limitless imaginations and consider the true possibilities of things we perceive to be impossible. Most great human achievements began as someone’s impossible dream, a crazy fantasy. It was the dreamers of their day who imagined electricity, flying machines, walking
    on the moon, running a four-minute mile, or instantly communicating on a cell phone or the Internet. All of these were considered impossible right up until the moment they actually happened. Soon after, they were thought of as everyday occurrences.
    Our dreams provide us a stage from which we can fantasize about things that don’t seem feasible within the constraints of our physical
    realities. They encourage us to question our often false perceptions of the limits of those realities. Through our dreams we are open to
    exploring all possibilities. Without our dreams, we too often surrender to our established limitations and underestimate our true potential.
    Dreaming is an essential part of what it means to be human. The same way we are born hungry and need to eat to grow, our minds and
    souls crave inspiration and need our imaginations to show us all what we are truly capable of being and doing.
    It is human nature to want to expand our capabilities. As long as we can imagine reaching the next level in our chosen field, most of us will instinctively want, and choose, to do so. Once babies have crawled, they want to walk. As soon as they walk, they want to run. Once they
    can run, they want to jump. We are rarely satisfied with where we are while we can still imagine, and believe, that we can do more.
    Few things have the power to motivate and inspire us to reach for our full potential the way our dreams do. Successful people from every
    walk of life—be they athletes, musicians, soldiers, doctors, policemen, firefighters, entrepreneurs, or entertainers (just to name a few)—usually agree on one thing. As children, long before they ever achieved success in their field, they dreamt and fantasized about becoming
    great at what they did. It wasn’t money or fame that inspired them as children. It was the pure love and purpose for the activity itself. Most of
    them can hardly remember a time when they weren’t insanely passionate about it. Every dreamer is not successful. But every successful person is a dreamer.
    As children, we all had dreams like these. But in our early years, most of us were discouraged from believing that we could actually live
    our dreams and achieve our highest ambitions. We were more often pushed by family, friends, and society in general to take a more secure
    route, keep our expectations low, and avoid failure and disappointment. We were guided by advisors to go after goals they thought we
    had the best chance of accomplishing, ones that didn’t demand too much effort from us.
    As opposed to looking at things from aperspective of abundance, we chose to see things from a minimalist perspective. Minimal desire leads to minimal goals, requiring minimal effort. Since we would be aiming so low, the likelihood for success was high so there was minimal chance for disappointment. But is the definition of success aiming to be half of what we are capable of being in a field that we tolerate but certainly aren’t passionate about? I don’t think so. And fortunately for me, my family didn’t think so either.
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