Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer
“Trust me,” he said.
“Trust me.” How many times had I heard those words before, only to be followed by some horrendous disaster?
From up here, I can just make out the red smear that used to be Dave. Who’s going to tell his wife? I’m sure as hell not.
It was two weeks ago today when Dave told me he had a birthday surprise and as his best friend I had to be there. “Trust me, it’ll be great.” In the army whenever he uttered those words, they were usually preceded by beer and generally ended in tears. I seem to recall a great deal of blood as well.
“Okay, what’s the surprise,” I asked, already in a pre-emptive cringe awaiting the answer.
“We’re going skydiving.”
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t breath. I was ready for a shock, but not this.
“What?” I had to be sure I had heard what I thought I heard.
“Skydiving man. I’ve got it all set.”
“Hey Dave,” I said quietly, somewhat fearful of the deranged gleam in his eyes, “um…, we were in the 82nd, remember? We have our wings. We ARE airborne.”
“Yeah, but this is going to be different.” The gleam in his eye was a blaze now. “Meet me at Love Field, 0700, two weeks from today. You’re gonna love this, trust me.” He left me with those words echoing in my ears.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012, 0630. It’s Dave’s birthday and I was at the airport. An ancient panel truck slammed to a stop beside me. Before I could move, Dave was out of the cab and heading to the back of the truck. “Hey give me a hand will ya?”
Inside the truck, he was manhandling what looked to be two fibreglass triangles painted a brilliant black and gold. Army Colours. “What are those,” I asked, knowing full well I would not like the answer.
“Wings,” he replied.
“Shit,” I thought, as we loaded the wings onto a DeHaviland Dash 8. As the plane roared to life, I asked him what this was all about.
“Remember a few years back when that Swiss guy flew across the English Channel?”
“Yeah,” I said, with not a little trepidation.
“Well, I got to thinking…”
Shit. This was not going to be good.
“…with my engineering background I can do that too.”
“I see you made two.”
“Couldn’t leave my old battle buddy dirt side could I?”
“Hey, did it ever dawn on you that you are a civil engineer?”
“Six of one…”
He spent the next ten minutes explaining the controls. “The steering is similar to your hang glider; the throttle is in your right hand the ignition in your left. To climb, push yourself back and hit the throttle, to dive just do the opposite. Give a five count after you bail to hit the ignition. The rear hatch of the plane lowered and talk became almost impossible.
“I just shit my pants,” I replied.
“It’ll be fun,” he said smiling. “Trust me.” With that he flung himself from the rear of the plane and dropped. I watched in horror as he fell, until four flames, two from each side, shot from beneath each wing.
I watched in awe as he soared off. Then I launched myself from the door. During freefall, I watched him nose straight down. “Show off,” I thought as I hit the ignition. Nothing happened. A thrill of terror swept through me scant seconds before the jets kicked in. As I zoomed away, I wondered what Dave was still doing in that dive. I didn’t wonder much longer as I lost power.
“It’ll be fun,” he had said.