On April 2, 2015 I published a story about how I started skydiving, and why I continue, as part of a Smithsonian project. This was a difficult exercise because it makes me vulnerable to acknowledge both the huge impact that skydiving has had on my life, and to share some of the raw, personal grief that shaped me and my choices. It was also exciting that a mainstream outlet like the Smithsonian magazine (and later, Time Magazine, which ran the piece as well) was interested in the relevance of sport skydiving to larger issues like what it means to be an American, and how risk taking in our small community can reverberate with meaning for a larger readership.
Six days after this piece was published, my best friend Jessica Edgeington died in a skydiving accident in Florida. She was a professional high-performance canopy pilot, one of the few women at the top of the sport, a true pioneer and legend and inspiration. No one's death other than my partner, Eric's, has hit me harder. It took me several weeks to stop feeling like my guts were being removed by a dull spoon. My family and non-skydiving friends were hit hard, too, not only because she was like a sister but also because a woman dying in the sport signaled that it's not just an overabundance of testosterone that kills. I could die, too. Part of what helped me to emerge from the shock was a feeling that I have nothing left to lose in telling my, and others' stories. Jessica and I always had project ideas simmering, but we were both too busy making ends meet to prioritize them. I hope I can fulfill a commitment to her memory, by finally giving voice to our joint passions and her extraordinary, quiet, under-celebrated contributions to this world.