Terry Bennet Vares remembers the day she nearly died in 1982 as clear and cold–nothing out of the ordinary for January.
The plane was 8,000 feet above the North Carolina countryside. Inside were Vares and other members of the Golden Knights, the Army’s elite skydiving team. As the plane slowed and turned, Vares checked her equipment a final time and dove out of the rear door of the plane.
To Vares and other competitors, skydiving is not a stunt, but a sport, and like other serious athletes, they work hard at their craft. Vares had taken over 2,000 jumps, and a national and world championship were in the back of her mind.
Once out of the plane, Vares began practicing the precise turns and rolls which, in competition, are evaluated by judges on the ground looking through high-powered scopes. The style part of skydiving was Vares’ strongest suit. The other part–accuracy–consists of trying to land on a target no bigger than a matchbox.
When her altimeter indicated 2,000 feet, Vares pulled the “D” ring to open her chute.…