by Lisa Ann Simpson | C-41459 | Ithaca, New York
When I started skydiving, it was the first thing I had actually done just for me. In 1997, I made one tandem for my 30th birthday. I fell in love with skydiving, but I was a single mother of two children and my most important goal was to raise them. Almost 15 years later, I told a girlfriend at work who was a skydiver that I had once made a tandem and would love to do another one. She told me that she had a friend who took students on tandems and gave me his contact information. On November 13, 2010, I drove to Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida. I had no idea that my life was going to change forever.
When I made my tandem, it was just as wonderful as I remembered. My tandem instructor, Cris Fucci, asked me how I liked it, and I said, “I love it, I wish I could do it myself.” He responded, “You can; I can teach you.” But I didn’t believe that I could actually do it. I lacked confidence and had never been involved in a sport in my entire life.
I then said, “I have three questions. One: Am I too old?”
He said no.
“Two: Do I have to get into shape?”
He said that it would help.
“And three: Do I have to learn north, east, south and west?”
It took him a few minutes to answer that one, but he said that I could get around it to begin with!
Of course, there were other factors, as well. First, I have been a registered nurse for 20 years and worked for more than 10 years in the emergency department. The nurses and doctors I worked with told me that I had a death wish. I was also afraid that I would be physically unable to skydive due to injuries from a car accident, in which I lost my uncle. I was the lucky one who lived, but I fractured my L5 vertebrae and my left arm in two places. My arm was repaired with seven screws and a plate, but I had radial-nerve neuropathy in my right arm from overcompensating.
I was honestly petrified to jump, but the thought of not doing it scared me even more. So I showed up for AFF and had two wonderful instructors: Fucci, who had been my tandem instructor, and Kirk Knight, who was once commander of the U.S. Army Golden Knights. It was a long day, but I couldn’t wait to get in the air. That day—December 3, 2011—I made my first AFF jump, and I still mark it on the calendar as the best day of my life. It was the day that I learned how to truly live.
I gained an amazing feeling of freedom and confidence. It was also amazing how much skydiving affected the rest of my life. Things I may have feared in the past somehow weren’t that significant anymore. And I started to look forward to the time it gave me, time that was all mine. Skydiving was all about me. When I got in the air, I wasn’t a nurse, a mom, a grandmom; all my worries were gone, and I had nothing on my mind but saving my life and enjoying it.
In June, I celebrated my 300th jump. I still love skydiving as much as I did the very first day. Along with making many wonderful friends and becoming part of a new family, I was lucky enough to meet the most amazing man: Cris Fucci, my tandem and AFF instructor and the one man whom I can completely trust with my life. We have been together four and a half years, and it has definitely been the ride of my life.