It was my seventy fifth jump:
Ready, Set, Go-
Maybe my timing was off. Maybe I should have been closer to the door. Maybe both.
That's gonna leave a mark, I thought...
I got stable. Then I saw it...
My jumping partner noticed. He fell at a safe distance. I couldn't read my altimeter (it was on the bad arm) so I kept an eye on him for until he signaled he was going to track away and pull. Once he was out of the way, I threw my pilot chute.
The canopy opened. At least that works, I thought, reaching for the toggles. It felt like both hands reached up. Then I looked down. My bad arm hang, inert, like a piece of meat on a peg.
I don't care what's wrong with your arm, I told myself. Get it up there and grab the steering toggle!
Again the ghost arm reached up, and the broken arm just hung there.
...or did I?
I was drifting away from the landing area.**
No, you idiot! I thought. You're arm's busted. You've gotta land at the DZ!
I tried to turn and steer my way back, but it wasn't working. I was drifting toward houses. Houses are bad things to land on. Landing on a roof means you could fall (or be blown) off. It's killed people. And even if I missed a house, there were plenty of booby traps: fences, trees, pavement, powerlines etc.. that could mangle me.
You will not fly over those houses! I told myself. Get turned around. Now!
My steering wasn't helping. I drifted over the houses and towards the freeway. The freeway!
You will not fly over the freeway! I thought. Between the hard surface and the speeding cars and trucks, this was the last place anyone would want to land. I tugged the toggles and tried to avoid it...
...and drifted straight over it.
The weedy, rock strewn hillside grew closer and closer. I flared (or tried to flare) and attempted a PLF. Kaboom! I hit the ground. It was rough but I seemed okay.
You stay put, I told myself. Who knows what's wrong with your arm. Don't make it any worse by getting up.
I sat up and waited. Did anyone know I was there? How long would I have to wait? How bad had I hurt my arm?
Soon I had a small crowd. People from the drop zone and people who happened to see me land were there. I was on the verge of blacking out and couldn't see well, but I could hear and speak.
Stay with them? I thought. How much choice do I have in the matter? And why did I feel faint anyway? I wasn't bleeding (that I knew of). It didn't even hurt that much. Was I a wimp?
I explained what happened the best I could, wondering if I was in trouble. Had I been stupid? Would I be banned from the drop zone?
The paramedics arrived and - to my horror- cut off the arm of the jumpsuit. It was one I was borrowing from the DZ. Uh oh. Not only had I caused a circus, but I'd wrecked one of the jumpsuits too. Still, I was glad to get help. They stabilized my arm, then tried to help me stand.
My right leg wouldn't cooperate.. What the..? "I think maybe there's something wrong with my leg..." I said...
(For part two, please click here)
*I toyed with the idea of holding the toggle with the untangled line in my teeth while I freed the wrapped one, but I had a full face helmet and couldn't open it with one hand (I tried!) It was probably best that I kept it intact, as even with the helmet's protection I ended up with a black eye.
**Turns out the winds were getting funny. Even some "normal" jumpers landed off on that load.