What an amazing experience! It's going to be hard to describe, but I'll try.
We drove about an hour to Greensburg, which seems like an alright little town. Here's a picture of the inside of the facility:
Once we were there we signed about 5,000 waivers and watched a little safety video. It wasn't long after the video that we were getting strapped up and ready to go. I guess it pays to reserve in advance and go on a weekday. I met the guy to whom I would soon be strapped, who was one of the more laid-back instructors. He gave me a quick set of instructions (what to do with my limbs, how to keep my feet up for landing, etc.) and was off to jump with a small group that was going right before us. I was glad for the time to relax, soak things in, and watch and try to learn from others.
Here's lesson #1:
I wasn't going to get any pictures of myself or my wife in the air, so I took plenty of the group that went before us.
(I'll have to add more pictures in another post.)
Everyone had a big smile upon landing, and I started getting excited. After a moment for the instructors to regroup we headed for the plane, which was carrying me, my wife, and one guy doing the accelerated free fall (jumping "alone" with two instructors around to help). The other guy and his instructors were doing a lot of talking, while my wife and I were quietly soaking everything in. When the plane first took off, I was nervous. I remember being maybe 100 feet up and thinking to myself, "I'm scared to jump from even this high, so how am I supposed to jump from 13,000 feet?" I'm not sure if that feeling was made better or worse by how calm and relaxed the instructors seemed to be.
As the plane climbed higher and higher I became more and more relaxed. Eventually I forgot about skydiving for a while and just enjoyed the plane ride. It was almost like any other plane ride I've been on, just staring out the window and thinking about how small we really are. My peaceful plane ride was interrupted by my instructor handing me my goggles and telling me to put them on when the yellow light lit up. All of the sudden skydiving was the only thing on my mind. "Does that mean we're going to jump soon?" "Am I ready for this?" "Am I going to screw something up? I'm not sure I remember everything he told me earlier."
It seemed like forever until that yellow light came on, but it was probably only a minute or so in real time. Out jumped the other guy and his two instructors. Before this could even register in my mind I was being pushed towards the door and told to put my knees on the ground. "Wait a minute, they can't reach! What the hell am I going to do now?" I was hopelessly looking down at my knees when my instructor said, "That's bad." "Wait a minute," I was thinking. "What's bad? How bad is it? Can we step away from the door for a minute and review?" Now's a good time to mention that English wasn't my instructor's native language and something was lost in translation. The thing that was "bad" was that my head was pointed down. It wasn't tilted back with my back arched like he had told me oh-so long ago. I finally got the picture through some sort of nonverbal communication, and before I even had time to look out the door and entertain second thoughts I was plummeting back towards solid ground.
Holy crap, what a feeling! For only the second time in my life I honestly thought I was going to die. I didn't mean to scream, but screams came out. That's right, I screamed like a little girl.
My eyes were open, but I couldn't really see much thanks to the clouds and the death-defying tumbling through the air. I decided to close my eyes for a while. That didn't help any. After a little more screaming I finally accepted the fact that I was falling from the sky and began to calm down little by little. This is when I started feeling my face making those funny shapes that you see in the photographs. I preoccupied my mind with trying to figure out which was better- mouth open or mouth closed. I became more and more relaxed and began to enjoy the feeling. For a second there I actually thought that our chute was open and I somehow missed it.
Then I felt my instructor reach to open the chute. I braced for a big impact, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Talk about instant relaxation. First, once the chute was open I was confident that I wasn't going to die. Second, there's just something beautiful about floating through the air under a parachute. This is one of those things that's hard to explain. You're going to have to do it yourself to truly understand.
That's the great thing about skydiving. You get to experience all the emotions. First there's the anticipation with fear mixed in, then there's pure 100% "I'm going to die" fear, then all of the sudden you're feeling the most relaxed and free feeling in the world.
I was a little scared about landing because my instructor was shorter than me and I didn't feel like my legs were up high enough. But everything worked out fine and landing wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. I went to hug my wife and even more emotions started coming. I was excited, proud of myself, relieved, and even a little sad that it was over. I was on an adrenaline rush for at least a half hour after the whole thing was over. It was simply amazing.
For anyone who's been wanting to try, go do it already!!