On this particular day, the winds were up, the trees swaying; the sun was warm on her face. The mountains were purple and jade, spotted with red and yellows. Her hands were a bit cold because it was only the first week of May, along with her legs, but then they were normally cold because the harness cut off the circulation. Ann was thinking,
It’s glorious today, thank you so much God. Look at that, oh my God the sky, the sky…
She’d been up paragliding for almost 2 hours, her arms were beginning to ache, but she had to wait to land because so many others were up and the landing field was packed. People came from miles away to watch the paragliders, sitting along the edges of the landing field, picnic, maybe decide to one day try it. They also walked directly across the actual landing zone to get to the trailhead of the hiking trail that wound up to Poo Poo Point, one of two take off spots at the top of the mountain. The other take off point was just called the South one. Poo Poo Point was the best, because it had the side of the mountain with the best updrafts hugging the west side; plus it had a huge section of Astroturf to set up on, so you didn’t get twigs and snags from stickers in the wing.
Three of her buddies were down already, and would make the shuttle for one more run, but the sun was setting and it was just so glorious with the sky an orange-red above Rainier, it’s usual cloud wafting above its peak. She decided to tough it out, to see the sun set.
Learning years before, she was long past the days of using a giant tail, or ribbon attached to her butt, so people knew she was a beginner. But Ann had watched several spreading their wings today, and taking their first flights; their long streamers of bright colors fluttering along behind them. She was happy for them, but it always made her nervous to be up in the sky with a newbie, and especially with this many flyers today. But it was just so perfect a day for flying, she’d spent most of the day high above the others, in safety and a huge updraft, just circling at about 3100 feet, like a giant eagle. Only leaving the updraft periodically to make a huge figure 8 and change direction for a while.
I’ll never forget this day Lord, I’m gonna save it in my memory forever, it’s just perfection. Thank you.
Ann started down, feeling like it was time, and sailed free of the updraft. Took a deep breath while in the calm air, exhaled slowly, then held both the control handles in one hand while stretching her arm down and letting some blood back in, then switched hands and did this to her other arm. Then she slowly began a weave back and forth, a little on the outside of the crowd of other gliders, before heading in and towards the landing field. She knew how to drop fast if the guy in front of her took too long and she lost altitude, but he was doing fine so she moved into position to take the next landing.
She started her final circle around the field at about 300 feet, then as she came around again she saw movement in the corner of her eye, and looked up to her right behind her to check for other gliders before starting her turn down. She saw a newbie headed straight for her, about to run right through her lines. Ann jerked hard on the left control handle, hoping to turn out of her path, but her heart sank as her mind processed the vision of the young girl who only had one control handle in her hand. She had lost the other, and was waving frantically in the one second Ann saw her before she dragged through her lines.
That was the day she fell to the Earth.
The young girls entire body was tangled in her lines and within seconds, both dropped to the trees from about 250 feet up. They were a tangled mess as the newbie’s wing tried to hold the weight of both, but it only slowed their plummet a bit. Crashing through the branches of the trees didn’t stop them from hitting ground, but it managed to break just about every bone in their bodies. The young girl was strangled by the lines as they twisted around her in the air and then the branches reached out to finish the job.
Oh dear God, Oh, end it now, please don’t let me go through life as a vegetable. Oh God it hurts, oh…God…
She laid there listening to the voices crashing through the woods to come save her, and then the black washed in like a dark ocean.