Free Falling


Haeleigh Bayle, Reporter

It was a warm, breezy morning on the shores of the Hawaiian islands. I felt the sun on my rosy cheeks and took in a breath of fresh air. This summer’s vacation had been amazing so far, and I wished I could just live here in Honolulu. Stress was a forgotten word by the people here on this magical island, and I knew the ocean life was for me. Every day I woke up feeling better than I had the last, with my mood at an all time high. And school…school was a past terror which I planned on leaving in the dust. I heard the sliding glass door of our beach vacation house open, and turned to see my mom walking towards me holding a fresh smoothie with a colorful straw sticking out of it.

“Good morning sunshine,” she said, handing me the smoothie. I returned a “good morning” and together we stood and watched the waves crash into the shore.

After I moment of taking in the serene landscape I asked: “What’s on the agenda for today?”

“Ziplining,” she said with a smile. “You better start getting ready, the boys will be up soon.” I knew that once my brother and dad were up, it’d be time to head to the zipline course whether I was ready or not. They have no patience and are avid explorers/thrill seekers. My mom and I, on the other hand, prefer to take things the laid-back way. Our idea of adventure consists of finding the best beach to lay out on, drinking lots of smoothies, and snorkling. The boys, however, liked their hiking, repelling off of cliffs, cliff diving, and ziplining.

I headed for the house, leaving my mom time to enjoy the view by herself. As soon as I walked into the door I saw my brother emerge from his room already completely dressed and ready for the day, yet still looking sleepy.

“Max, did you sleep in those clothes?” I asked him with an eyebrow raise, even though I already knew the answer.

“Yup…time is of the essence, Kendra.” He sauntered into the kitchen and grabbed a granola bar for breakfast. He hopped up into a chair and started munching away loudly. For such a young boy (only ten years old) he had such a great deal of knowledge stored in his head.

I walked by my dad who was already dressed and ready as well. “Please tell me you didn’t sleep in those clothes, too!” I threw my hands up in the air in annoyance.

“What…of course not…” My dad said in a sarcastic tone and headed for the kitchen as well. I could hear Max and dad in the kitchen coming up with their explorer’s “Game Plan” as I headed for my room. I rolled my eyes. Those two, I thought.

After getting completely ready, I went back into the living room and waited until we were completely packed. Then, together we loaded into the car and set out for the ziplining course. I watched as the different birds flew past the car and into the trees. One was the ‘I’iwi, the most beautiful bird I had ever seen. We twisted up and up around a mountain where the zipline started.

Finally, we emerged from the trees into a grassy field on the top of the hill. Standing on the ground alone was breathtaking, and I couldn’t wait to get onto the zipline. Max ran past me to look out over the whole island, pulling out his cheap camera he begged my mom to buy him. He then started snapping pictures of everything, including my mom, dad, and I who were all gaping at the beautiful scenery.

“C’mon Max, we need to get our gear on so we can zipline!” My mom shouted to him as he raced around taking pictures.

We went and stood at the small building where a young girl handed out harnesses, helmets, gloves, and clips. She smiled pleasantly and wished us all a fun time. My heart began to race as we walked closer to the ladder where we would climb up to a platform. I had never been great with heights, but I figured I might as well try something new, my life was pretty boring anyway. My legs were unnecessarily wobbly when I stood up on the platform, and I had to reach out and take hold of the railing. Max, on the other hand, sprinted back and forth on the platform, not caring that we were fifty feet above the ground.

An older man introduced himself as Akamu when he greeted us, and gave instructions on what to do when we wanted to stop, and how to unclip ourselves. He gave a brief history lesson of the mountain and then walked us to the edge where we would clip on and take off. Max volunteered first, so he got situated and zoomed down the line, screaming at the exhilaration. My dad went next, and my mom followed. I was the last one to leave the platform, but I didn’t mind. I got clipped on, and held my shaking hands together. I wasn’t sure if I could handle the height. But before I could think twice Akamu pushed me off of the ledge and I was sent sailing down the line at an uncanny speed. I let out a scream, half out of fear and half out of disbelief.

I whipped past trees and brush faster than I could process them and could just barely see my mom ahead of me. I was starting to get comfortable when I heard a strange “click” sound. I looked up at my harness that was clipped onto the line and noticed the metal piece was merely hanging on by a thread. My heart dropped in my chest. This can’t be happening to me, I thought. The wind picked up and my harness swayed, the clamp teetered back and forth, about to fall off of the line. The trees still blurred past me. I tried to put my gloved hand up to slow myself, but it was no use; the more I tried to stop the closer the clip came to dropping off and releasing me into the open air. I was too far above the ground to perform anywhere near a safe landing. I had no idea what to do. Tears started streaming down my face. Not like this, the thought repeated over and over in my head.

Just when I came into view of the platform and saw my family, a huge gust of wind sent me rocking back and forth. I was still a ways off, but I could start to make out their faces. I stuck my gloved hand up to stop but just as I did the clip finally let loose and I reached out at the wire line as my body plummeted.

My fingers caught the end but my strength failed me and I was sent careening downward. It was as if I was in slow motion: I looked at my family one at a time. My mom’s face was a look of horror, my brother’s was shock and fear, and my dad’s was heartbroken. A scream echoed around me, filling the space between me and my beloved family. Reaching through the air, I sailed farther and farther down. The earth was approaching me much faster. It felt unreal…something that shouldn’t be happening to a young girl like me. A girl who still had a whole life ahead of her. And yet here I was, free falling to my death on a family vacation. I looked up to the sky, searching for an answer.

In that moment before I hit the trees, I accepted my fate. I knew my time had come. I closed my eyes and said a prayer…