Skydiving a game changer for unlikely jumper

By ZACHARY COE/Montana State News

She sits in her cubical at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana and feels her mind beginning to drift. She sits in her usual work attire of black dress pants and a fancy pink and white blouse. She holds still and stares off into space as the monogamy of life is melting away in front of her while she ponders the question I asked her.

The mind of Lisa Jenkins begins drift as she tells me the details of that warm summer day in 1989.

Lisa Jenkins is a young, blonde woman who normally wears glasses, but not today. She is wearing a bright green jumpsuit as she enters the 20-person plane. Jenkins feels the anticipation of anxiety overcome her as she enters the plane and hears the engine begin to roar in front of her. The amazing piece of machinery begins to move and eventually blasts off the runway.

“Lisa, are you ready?” asks Dave, the tandem attached to her back. They approach the open plane door and prepare to jump like all the others did before her. All she can focus on his her breathing. Jenkins remembered the meeting, right after they made her sign the death warrant. If she did not breathe, she would pass out.

Dave reaches on either side of the door and yells something to another instructor but her ears stopped working once her eyes gazed on the Bitterroot for the first time from 12,000 feet. This was completely out of character.

Her mind drifted back to her young daughter at home and she began to wonder if it would be too late for her to change her mind. She agreed to do this off a dare, despite her intense fear of heights. But as she feels Dave begin to bend his knees to jump, she knows that it is time to skydive whether she wants to or not.

She almost goes into shock when the ground does not meet her feet upon dismount. Her mind begins to slip into an unconscious state when she finally takes her first airborne breath. When breathing becomes effortless, she begins to understand the beauty of the moment.

She is falling and holding still all at the same time as she attempts to take in every possible surrounding. She is most surprised by the silence of the moment. This was the closest she had ever been to God.

Her touchdown to earth was softer than she had expected as she and Dave jog back onto solid ground and wait for the parachute to calm down in the wake of the wind. The feeling of relief and excitement overcome her as she walks the planet again.

She is back in her cubicle at work. Mrs. Jenkins is a bit older now and she cannot lose a grin as she looks at me.

“That was one of the most thrilling carnival rides I have ever been on.… I highly recommend everyone try it at least once,” She says to me with pride.

I can see the excitement begin to subside in her eyes as she remembers the workload that awaits the rest of her day. She settles back in her chair and tells me one final fact about her adventure: “You know, they don’t even allow you to jump from 12,000 feet anymore. The other two times I jumped since, they made us go from 10,000 feet for safety.”

As we begin to wrap up the reminiscent story, Lisa Jenkins adjusts her glasses and thanks me for asking about the most exciting time of her life. She swears to me that she will go again one day to do her fourth jump and even invites me along. I am not sure, but I think there is more of an adventurer spirit to this person that the people surrounding give her credit for.

Anyone in the office who knows Jenkins calls her quiet and says she is predictable, but for that brief moment all those years ago, she was out of the workplace and eye level with angels.

– edited by Merrit Geary

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