Friday, April 9, 2010

Why I Write

by Rafael Figueroa

One day I was standing in the back of a C130 cargo plane at the end of the retractable ramp with a drogue parachute line secured to my harness. A smiling airman, who would not be jumping today, assured me that they had simulated this kind of emergency drop countless times and that the jumper almost never died. Was he kidding? There was no way to be certain.

With one last nod in my direction, he pulled the two red levers, one up and the other down. The relative quiet of the cargo hold gave way to a roar better measured in its fearsomeness than in decibels as articulating hydraulic pistons forced the rear end of the plane to open. I was quite sure that the aforementioned airman was looking to me. He would generally need a signal of readiness from me in order to deploy the small parachute in his hand, the very parachute that was fastened to my harness via a sturdy hook. Once he dropped this drogue parachute, nothing short of the hand of god himself could stop it from dragging me out of the plane and into the skies high above enemy territory.

The airman looked to me to give him the signal, but I couldn't stop looking out at the dark emptiness beyond the end of the plane's cargo ramp. Years of training prepared me for this moment, but the most fleeting spark in my brain overcame my training, the spark of fear. In a panic, I reached for the clip on my harness that attached me to the drogue line. This motion must have approximated the signal that the airman anticipated because, in that same moment, he pitched the parachute out into the night.

Time slowed as the line tethering me to the night itself pulled taught. Have you ever ridden in a glass elevator? If you do it often enough, you notice a brief moment as the elevator begins to accelerate wherein it almost seems like the world outside begins to move rather than the elevator itself. In much the same fashion it seemed like the cargo hold around me suddenly accelerated to 300 miles per hour in the blink of an eye. In that moment I paused to reflect on the fact that none of this had ever happened… not to me at any rate.

You see, I made up every word of this story out of my imagination. I did take a ride on a C130 once, I've ridden in glass elevators, and I once saw a movie where people were deployed from a cargo plane in a manner similar to what I described here, but that's about all the truth there is to this little story. Though none of this really happened, I now own a little piece of what it would be like if it had, and so do you. That is why I write.

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