I hate heights. I don’t have a phobia of tall buildings or being on planes, but I’ve just come to accept that I, as a human being without wings or hollow bones, have absolutely no right to be in the air. Naturally, I have a great deal of admiration for those who spend their lives in the sky, and even more so for those daring few who choose to go hurtling toward the ground on purpose as they rely on little more than their training and a strip of cloth to save them.
Having said that, when I first saw the photos of a paratrooper who recently became tangled in high voltage power lines near Arizona City, Ariz., the first thought that went through my brain was: Wow, that’s my worst fucking nightmare. This was followed quickly by: Oh shit, I hope he’s alright. (He is, by the way.)
The images were first shared by the Eloy Fire District of Arizona on Facebook and show a man that the department, as well as multiple media sites, have referred to as a paratrooper as he dangles from a deployed parachute that became entangled in a power line on Friday.
A local fox news affiliate reported that the man had been on a training mission and was jumping over Sawtooth Airport.
At this time, it’s unclear what branch of service the man belongs to. Based on his silhouette, he appears to be wearing a Kevlar helmet with NVGs mounted, and a camouflage uniform, though the exact pattern is hard to make out, and no unit insignias can be clearly seen in the photos.
Fortunately, first responders were able to get him down from the “massive electrical hazard,” the Eloy Fire Department said in their statement, though it was a slow process that took several hours as he remained suspended 75 feet up in the air surrounded by active power lines.
To safely get him down, the Eloy Fire District coordinated with the U.S. Department of Energy to get the power turned off and then, very carefully, used a 100-foot bucket ladder to retrieve the man.
“On one hand, we didn’t want him to make too much contact with the energized power equipment, and then, on the other hand, we didn’t want him to fall, so it was uncomfortable being up there, but he was honestly, for the situation, about the best position he could be in at that point,” said Assistant Chief Robert Maestas of the Eloy Fire District.
As for the guy who was stuck up there, I want to imagine that he took it all in stride with a kind of stoic poise. Among those service members who choose to jump out of perfectly good aircraft, there seems to be an acceptance that there’s only so much planning, so much risk management, and so many gear checks you can do. Once you’re in the air, and on your way down, you’ve rolled the dice and now you just have to hope and pray they don’t come up with snake eyes.
The thought that you’re very rapidly plummeting to the earth with little more than a bedsheet to save you would likely paralyze most people with fear — it sure as hell would for me — but not paratroopers. Instead, many display what I can only describe as a sort of morbid pride. Hell, consider Blood Upon The Risers, a famous World War II-era airborne ballad about a rookie trooper who dies during a jump. It’s a song that’s frequently sung, often gleefully, by current and former soldiers who belt it out over beers and cigars, as their jump wings shine and shimmer on their uniforms.
And in the case of this paratrooper, at least he can rejoice that he very narrowly avoided being a lyric in that song.