The 19-year-old Cleveland High School graduate admits, “The exhilaration is indescribable! It’s not like much of what I expected, but every bit as amazing. It feels like I am in an invisible car, on my belly, traveling at 120 miles an hour. Wind and acceleration and weightlessness take over and I see God’s beautiful creations in a way I never have before. When the canopy opens, the rollercoaster begins with twists and turns and the ride of a lifetime! The return to the ground is safe, but a little too safe for me sometimes. I always want to go right back up.”
According to Julie, she was 12 when she first saw people jumping out of airplanes on television and was immediately “attached to it.”
“After discovering you had to be 18, I told all my sixth-grade friends that I was going to skydive for my 18th birthday,” Julie recalls. “Almost all of them thought it was a great plan and we even made comments about going together. I continued telling people this and some thought I was either kidding or crazy, but I was dead serious about it from the start.”
Her mom Denise, who herself is afraid of heights, said, “It was her 12th birthday when Julie informed me that the only present she wanted was to go skydiving. But when I called they said you had to be 18. I assumed Julie would just put it out of her mind, but six years later, with her 18th birthday approaching, she again said that she wanted a skydiving trip to be her present. So we went.
“She went up in a tandem jump (attached to an experienced skydiver). She came down and said it was the best thing she had ever done in her whole life! She was then determined to begin learning how to jump alone. Julie is shy, soft-spoken, very petite, only 5 feet tall, and the last person in the world you’d think would enjoy this. The vast majority of skydivers are men, often military. No one saw this coming!”
The biggest challenge, Julie said, was standing by the plane’s doorway before her first jump. But seeing how calm everyone else was, offering her a sip of their 2 liter coke as they prepared to jump with her was a cherished moment that helped relax the youth.
“They asked me if I was nervous and I said no. I wasn’t nervous. But once I stood on the edge of the landing gear it was like — ‘Oh man! I’m really high!’” she said, laughing. The highest I've jumped was from 14,000 feet. It was a King Air plane and another big plane I've been in is the Twin Otter. These are the two planes that I've been in that can go high.”
After her first jump, Julie, who attends college at Middle Tennessee State University, said she could not wait to do it again. In fact, she has made 30 jumps and says she is just getting started.
“Right now I’m only belly flying,” Julie said. “I’d really like to learn how to fly in different positions. I’d like to be able to go head down, backwards and sit-flying. It looks like an invisible chair — like sitting in the air. You need some training on the ground. It’s all about relative wind. You have to learn belly flying first and I’m still working on the main task of that. It’s recommended that you have more than 50 jumps to learn distant fly. I’ll get up to it. I go as often as possible. With school and other responsibilities — it usually ends up being every other weekend or so. Now that it’s summer, I hope to be going more often.”
Going for her master’s degree in business and bachelor’s degree in video production, Julie has devised a plan to unite business with pleasure in a very special way.
“I’m working in video production right now,” she said. “I want to combine the two skills of flying and camera work. They actually have a job in this kind of industry called ‘Outside Camera.’ You jump out of the plane and follow the tandems as they fly. You take different videos and pictures as they jump and your clients will pay you to do that. I think that would be cool. Also, I’m into editing videos. So, if I can edit skydiving videos — that would be cool, too! That’s more of a side job, though. Working at a TV station is more what I’m looking at for a career.”
When asked if she would recommend skydiving to her peers, Julie said, “Definitely! I try to advertise to everyone I meet about skydiving. It’s really fun! Also, I have a friend, Donna Palmer, known as a world class skydiver. She’s going to be training me. I’m glad I have a mentor like that.”
Skydive Tennessee Manager Hollis Collins, said, “Julie came out with a great attitude and open mind which led to her really excelling in skydiving. She has a bright future ahead of her, and this will not be the last you hear about her and skydiving.”
Julie, one of four siblings who share a passion for thrill-seeking, said, “I learned that I could do anything I want. If I work hard at it I can change the outlook of some people. I can make a good impression on people and be recognized as someone who accomplished something, even statewide. It’s fun. You have to work at it, but it’s worth it!”
Her mother added, “When something ignites a passion in your child, it is hard not to allow them to follow their passion. My husband and I have supported her interest in this extreme sport in every way. Do I worry? Actually, I worry more about her crashing her car on the way to the airport than jumping out of the plane.
“Parents of children in any serious sport will worry, but you pray, then set it aside, and have faith that God is watching out for them. Skydiving is safer today than it has ever been and she has had good training. Julie has a solid head on her shoulders and I trust won’t do anything she is not ready to do. In the meantime, she is pursuing what gives her joy and gaining more experience each time she jumps. Her older brother is an avid rock climber and her older sister was a whitewater rafter guide for three years. So I guess it’s in their genes.”
Julie smiled. “I guess it is. I love it.”
Julie is also the president of the skydiving club at MTSU for the 2014-2015 school year.