Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 6/18/2009 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - Jumping Out of a Perfectly Good Plane

Martha's Big Adventure -- Jumping Out of a Perfectly Good Plane

By Martha Randolph Carr

Great economic upheavals can lead to strange new ways of thinking. Lose a job or a home and other things on the list of 'never going to happen' suddenly start to seem like possibilities. That's my reasoning behind a recent skydiving adventure.

This isn't normal behavior for me. I'm a middle aged woman who can maneuver through a suburban mall with the best of them and was a class mother for years. I was always the helper dutifully following behind.

If there was something risky to do I'd wait for enough people to go first and assess the fun versus injury ratio before making a decision. Risky was writing a column on gun control or immigration. Already some people are forming their emails back to me just from that one sentence.

Skydiving was something I said I would never, ever do under any circumstances. It didn't matter if friends were willing to go first. The sport is too risky and there's no good reason to leave a plane that will land successfully on its own.

Actually, I had a list of things I was unwilling to do and right above skydiving at the top of the list was to lose a home.

The thought of not being able to point at a house or an apartment building and know that all my worldly possessions were locked safe and sound inside made me shudder. The idea was enough to be a personal bogeyman. Oh well.

As readers know, the worst happened in April when I packed up and put everything in storage and I'm still standing. Then last weekend an opportunity to do number two on my list of things to never do in this lifetime came up and I felt my brain lurch forward. Just do it, was the message. My friend, Charl Hodges from South Africa and I set out for Sky's The Limit in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania in the Poconos.

My tandem master was John Donahue, a construction inspector for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation during the week and a guy who attaches himself to countless strangers and then jumps out of planes on the weekends.

The hardest part of the jump was the plane ride. John broke the mood by pretending to fall asleep and then acting like he wasn't sure how to connect the two of us together. Remarkably, I still went toward the door when it was our turn.

The whole thing was videotaped and the look on my face at the door of the plane is the best part. I have now seen what my face would look like if I was about to be thrown to the lions. My chin is pressed to my chest and my eyes are open very, very wide. Fortunately the next step is pretty easy.

We fell out of the plane at 13,000 feet and everyone has asked me what I was thinking as I tumbled out, plummeting at 120 miles per hour toward earth. See a photo at

A calm came over me. The decision was made and there was no turning back so I let go of trying. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. The freefall lasts for about a minute and once the canopy is open there are seven minutes of gently sailing back toward the ground. John and I were actually chatting. Mostly all I said was, 'wow'.

Everyone in the hangar had said that I'd be on a high for at least a month afterwards. The only thing I've noticed is a desire to let go of anything else in my life that's just not working and a mental search for what number three was on the never-to-do list. I think it was travel in war zones. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. Email Martha at: or visit

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