Attending Bridge Day on the New River Gorge Bridge has been on my bucket list. For me, it was a dream comes true. Because of my experience, I now plan to attend every year. It is an annual event that is held every third Saturday in October. Considered the world’s largest and most dangerous extreme sports event, I was not sure what to expect.
Leaving Ace Adventure Resort the morning of, my GPS had stopped working. To my surprise Kroger, one of many designated parking locations for the event was less than ten minutes away. Parking did not seem to be a problem. Everything was well organized by the County. Every fifteen minutes, school buses would pick you up and drop you off round trip for $2.00 making it a short convenient ride to get from one destination to another.
When arriving on the South side of the bridge the excitement in me grew. There were people as far as your eyes could see. According to Cindy Dragan from the Bridge Day, Commission there was an estimated 75,000 spectators from all over the world to attend this year. Sponsors and vendors lined up on both sides of the highway. Selling handmade crafts, jewelry t-shirts, crazy looking beanie hats, and kettle corn. Children were jumping on a bungee trampoline. The aroma from food was so tempting. I enjoyed lemonade and the best funnel cake that ever melted in my mouth.
The weather was overcast with temperatures in the low 60’s.For attire I dressed in layers wearing a, North Face wind jacket. Over all, a perfect autumn day for the event.
From below the bridge while taking photographs and video, I found myself saying a silent prayer for each participant. The BASE jumpers were leaping, diving or being launched from a catapult some 876 feet above me. Free falling three to four seconds before deploying their chutes. It looked like rainbows’ dancing in sky as their parachutes open to become their saving wings of grace.
In West Virginia for just one day, BASE jumpers can legally leap from the New River Gorge Bridge, and soar like an eagle in the wind. Wild Water & New River jet boats come to the rescue if they happen to splash in the frigid river below. It was like a scene out of a movie. Nine hundred thirty-four jumps took place.
Bridge Day 2013 was ending. One of the most touching moments I had that day was the opportunity to interview Lonnie Bissonnette who jumped from the bridge in a wheel chair with his best friend Bertrand Cloutier. They jumped in memory of their two best friends. Lonnie’s best friends name was Scott Halliday who also loved the sport. He passed away in July 2013. Bertrand best friend was Mario Richard who had an unfortunate accident in Italy a few months ago doing what he loved. “Feeling free and being part of the skies.” Bertrand explained: “There were four who jumped not just Lonnie and me.”
When talking to Lonnie I asked him, what advice would you give to someone who may or may not be in your circumstances? What advice would you give to our youth? He responded: “Vicki, I would tell anyone to go for their dreams and don’t let anyone stop you from achieving them.” Bertrand responded saying: “This is how we live our lives and we hope to inspire others.
Written By: Vicki White