Meet Paralyzed B.A.S.E. Jumper Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen
Bridge Day is full of stories. Interesting. Unique. Funny. We enjoy posting stories from others, it helps convey the many different perspectives that go into making Bridge Day special. Over the years, Bridge Day has served as the backdrop for many stories. From weddings and marriage proposals to historic jumps, and family rappels. People doing extraordinary things at an extraordinary place. The stories, and their variety of nature, are as unique as the event itself.
We would like to introduce you to Minna. Minna is a Finnish B.A.S.E. jumper living in Canada. She has raced kayaks, ridden skateboards....if it's an extreme sport she likely has tried it. The video below shows her progression from tandem jumping to solo...which led her to Bridge Day.
This year, like many others, she made her first trip to jump at Bridge Day. Unlike most other jumpers, Minna is paralyzed. She also has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). It doesn’t stop her from living life to the fullest, and it didn't stop her from jumping off our Bridge.
How was her day? We'd like her to tell you herself.
Bridge Day 2010
By: Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen Truly one of the most peaceful moments of my life. On the platform, then finally jumping. The beauty of the New River Gorge.
The whole experience was so much different then I imagined. When I have jumped before, it's always with few people around. Yet at Bridge Day, despite the crowd being large, as it came time to jump, the noise faded away.
When I was up on the jump-platform, I heard nothing. As if no one else was there.
Later, as I recounted the day, I was surprised by this. Why? Because I have never jumped anywhere with so many people and so much noise. As I listened to the announcer while others jumped, I thought to myself, "This never happens at my other jumps!". The jumpmaster told me I was clear. Just the couple of words I needed to hear.
As I left the platform, my mind turned the voice of the announcer silent. The crowds went silent.
Time seemed to stand still, as if this particular moment, were only for me. As I flew I noticed the tree branches and their leaves. Ripples in the water. I felt the movement of air upon my face, with the greatest intensity. For those few seconds it was as if everything were magnified and I had the whole world to myself alone.
It was a peaceful feeling. One I doubt I will ever be able to fully explain.
Later as I was talking with a friend, I explained, "If I died tonight I would be ok with that. I felt the most peaceful moments of my life during that jump".
He laughed and said, "You always say that when you jump".
This was different. I tried to explain it like this:
It reminds me of past kayak races at the Nationals and some International events. During sprint races, time would blur. With each paddle stroke I took, I felt the intensity throughout my body. Each heartbeat seemed to echo. Bridge Day was like this for me. As our team sport psychologists would say, I was'in the zone'.
This is what the jump gave back to me. As my ALS adventures have brought me far from those racing days, I have only experienced that feeling jumping on a few other occasions. The intensity of that feeling can't compare to what I experienced on the New River Gorge Bridge.
I did one jump. I had only planned to jump once and then to soak in the moment. Much like you, I enjoy watching people, visiting the booths, and taking in the surroundings. For me, it is SO much more about the whole experience, then rushing to try to jump again.
I needed that jump. I needed to be on that Bridge.
It brought me peace. That jump has liberated me from the feeling of uncertainty of my future and my ability to continue on fighting with this illness, knowing what is coming in the future. I was growing tired, and was thinking that soon I wont have the mental tenacity to keep on dealing with the various things that I will be facing in the future.
I didn't join the evening festivities following the day of jumping. I felt the need to hold on to the feeling I had found earlier.
Being sick with ALS, I know that jumping at another Bridge Day will never be in my sights. Being there to jump this time, has meant more to me then I am able to describe. The experience is one that helps me to accept my 'fate' in life before I leave someday to move on to some other existence.
It is really impossible to describe, you just need to go out and do it. Experience it for yourself.