And so fate was set in motion...

Since I had a very bad head trauma, most of the specific details around the accident have been completely lost to amnesia, while others are fuzzy and yet others are just general feelings I have for around that time.  None-the-less, I will do my best to paint you a picture.

My initial plans were to arrive in St. Louis on the day of the accident ... and the plan was to start jumping on Monday

"It's a skydiving Woodstock," is how I like to describe it.  I mean, that's my impression after going to the breathtaking, wonderfully stupendous,  airgasmic World Free Fall Convetion (WFFC) for the first time in 1996.

You've got the people: over 4000 skydivers from all 50 states and dozens of countries around the world.  You've got the attitude: over 4000 skydivers jamming at what they love to do most for 10 hours a day, and when they are done for the day they talk about jumping!  You've got the free spirits: free kegs of beer all nite long ensures that you have what's next.  You've got 4000+ skydivers all over the place, running, whooping, dancing, laughing, crying, singing, mud playing, dummy throwing, go-cart racing, backwards go-cart racing at nite, tent setting, pole staking, jumbo jet jumping, balloon jumping, helicopter jumping, thrill seeking, fun loving  and so much more.

Now cram them all together for 10 days starting the first weekend in August with new people coming and going all the time; and what do you get?  A skydiving Woodstock.   I love it.  I can't explain it, you just have to be in a small city with like minded people having the best time of their life to understand.  It feels like a secure, friendly, fun seeking and loving family.  It's fucking awesome, man!   :^)

OK, so now you know what I was looking forward to for the whole year leading up to WFFC '97.  I had all plans taken care of: I was setup with time off from work, a hotel room, a rental car, a plane flight and all the fun I could handle at the convention.  I had bought hundreds of dollars in jump tickets and was prepared to have the greatest time of my life with, hopefully, most of the air time on my head flying inverted.

My initial plans were to arrive in St. Louis on the day of the accident, Sunday, August 3rd, 1997 and drive into Quincy, just like I'd done the year before.  This would have put me in Quincy sometime in the afternoon and the plan was to start jumping on Monday and fly back around Saturday, after jumping the whole week.  Amazing how plans laid out for the entire year could change so quickly...

A good friend of mine, Sheri Rankin (now Sheri Hamilton) was having real trouble finding a way to get to the convention.  She couldn't afford to fly up and her repeated attempts to find someone to drive up fell through.  I think she had four different plans going and all of them cratered in on her.

It was all so sweet.

Well, being the nice guy that I am, I figured that I could solve her problem: we'd drive up using  my car.  This wasn't so bad really; we'd get there sooner, it'd be cheaper, it'd be fun and I'd be able to jump more.  Sounded like a 'win, win, win' scenario.  So, the final plan executed was: we left after work on Friday, August 1, 1997 from Houston and arrived in Quincy sometime right around noon on Saturday.  We were gonna return to Houston sometime the next week, but I'm not sure when.

After about 15 hours on the road, we arrived, exhausted and not feeling like jumping.   So, I spent the rest of the day Saturday finding friends and meeting new ones, setting up a base of operations at the AirTime trailer, getting my new canopy back, shooting video and all sortsa other fun stuff.   I had pre-arranged a roommate, so I met up with my fellow Texan Treeman (Dan Horrigan) and we ran around the food tent, wandered around the tent city, made our way to a party RV (where I met Lucia) and partied, watched jump videos and partied some more. I'm not sure when Treeman and I left, but we finally made it to the hotel somewhere late Saturday night/Sunday morning.  I can remember driving out from the airport that nite.

We woke up Sunday around noon or so, we really weren't in a rush.  I was feeling extremely well refreshed and ready to jump my ass off.  I had my 3 week old JVC digital cybercam in hand and was recording what I could, including the maids at the hotel.   I was feeling sooooo good! My dream vacation has arrived.  We stopped off at WalMart on the way to the convention so I could get a combo TV/VCR for my own private air conditioned video room in the AirTime trailer.

It was all so sweet.

Once at the convention, Treeman and I met up with some other folx and we planned our first jump, a raft dive.  I can remember bits and pieces of that jump, most notably before and after the jump.  When we were on the ground waiting for the load, I enquired as to why the raft was very limp.  I was told that since the pressure was lower at altitude, the raft would inflate on the way up.  I still felt it was underinflated.

So, instead of having the time of my life, I almost ran out of time for my life!

After the jump, I remember whining about how shitty the jump went and how sliding it out the back of the Casa was the reason it deflated (it was cut on the exposed metal).   I also remember that I stayed away from the raft after everybody tumped from it and the video proves that (as it is mostly out of frame way above my head).

I lucked out on the second jump and met up with Lucia and another jumper, Al, as I was waiting for the plane.  We quickly planned a 3-way headdown dive and jumped from the super otter.  I can remember bits of the dive, but really not much at all.  I have video of that as well.

The third and nearly fatal jump was with Lucia and Al again.  Another headdown dive was planned.  This went pretty well as Lucia and I stayed relatively close; not bad for our second jump together.  The jump went great, the flying around under canopy was fine, the landing sucked big time.  On this jump I collided with Andy Anderson.

This really was a big bummer, considering how much I was looking forward to my skydiving vacation.  It still saddens me to think that, what could possibly have been one of my best WFFCs was cut short after only the third jump on the first day.  It was my 1040th jump over the past 5 years of jumping.

So, instead of having the time of my life, I almost ran out of time for my life!