by Christine A. Holliday
Toledo resident Carol Kraus, mother of eight and grandmother of 30, gave herself the world as an 80th birthday present. She didn’t take a trip around the world—instead, she took a trip above it, fulfilling a bucket-list wish to jump out of an airplane. She and two of her sons got a panoramic view of the world from 14,000 feet above Skydive Tecumseh, and the experience was as amazing and awe-inspiring as she hoped it would be. “I wasn’t afraid to do the jump,” she explained. “I was never afraid of planes. My dad was a pilot in World War I, and my three brothers were all Air Force pilots. In fact, my first plane ride ever was in an open cockpit plane with my oldest brother at the controls. I rode behind him and we did barrel rolls as we flew over our family property. My mother on the ground wasn’t too pleased! I remember taking off my helmet after that flight and finding that my long hair was twisted in knots,” she said. There were no knots in her stomach as she approached the plane for her birthday jump. She says she had thought about it for many years, but didn’t think it was a good idea when her children were young. The idea came up several times during the years and her family kept urging her to do it. She talked to a friend who had done it, and he encouraged her to give it a try, assuring her she would love the experience. She decided to do the jump for her 80th birthday. Three miles up On the day of the jump, she had training where she learned how the tandem jump would progress. She wore a harness system that attached her to the front of the American Parachute Association-certified instructor.
Her position gave her the best view of the scenery and gave the instructor access to the controls of the chute for landing. Kraus could steer the rectangular chute while they were up high, and the instructor made certain the landing was smooth. In fact, he acted almost like a chair beneath her as they came to the ground in a sitting-down position. The day was “perfect” as the plane door opened at 14,000 feet (almost 3 miles!). Kraus and her two sons were among the jumpers, as was the videographer she had hired to document her jump. “He told me I wouldn’t see him jump, but that he would appear in front of me all of a sudden, and that’s exactly what happened. He was there as we rolled and spun around.” Kraus described what she saw as like a “gorgeous quilt,” adding, “We flew through the clouds, and I really felt like I was soaring. The air was very cold and loud as we traveled at 135 mph in the 10,000 foot free-fall. We did that fall in just under a minute.” She continued, “Once the chute opened, it was very quiet.
I felt like a bird. There was such a panorama below us, and I had a lot of grateful feelings for the earth God has given us. As we came down, we could see our shadows on the ground, like you might see the shadow of a plane you are riding in. But, this time, there was no window!” Waiting on the ground to welcome Kraus were her children and several of her 30 grandchildren, who formed a covered bridge with their hands for her to walk through after she landed. One of her grandchildren had jumped the same day Kraus did, and several others promised to jump when they reach 18. “Do it,” she told them. “You will love it.” Kraus can relive the experience as often as she likes by watching the video of her jump on YouTube (search Carol 8 15 SDT to see it). She expresses surprise that the video of her adventure already has more than 500 hits, and hopes that some of those viewers are would-be jumpers as old as she is thinking about taking the plunge. “It is a real wow experience,” she insisted. “My advice is to do what you have longed to do if you are able. Just do it!”