- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
With a terrifying suddenness the whole bottom of the balloon swirled inward.
4,200 FEET UP: "WE'VE HAD IT"
Piccard gave a cry. "We've had it. The rip panel's gone." In the first shocking moment of fear I did nothing but stare at Piccard cutting the appendix cord with a knife, then at the ground, then at the twisting, shrinking fabric above. "It's sticking on the valve line," Piccard again cried, slashing with his knife. "We've got to parachute it."
The rest of his words dissolved into jabber. Dumbly, all thumbs, I worked to unbuckle myself from the net, my mind clutching for some hope and finding little. Somebody 100 years ago had parachuted in a burst fabric. Had there been others like us, with no special parachute rig? With no valve line to guide the collapsing fabric?
Then as I crawled and slid down through the hoop to the basket, I could see the faces of the other four, but I could not tell if they were afraid. "Throw the ballast," Connie Wolf said.
"The sand first," Piccard ordered, "then bags, and we won't hurt anyone below. There's no gas left. We're on complete parachute." The sand fell behind us in an arc. The bags hung even with us for a moment, then fell away. Air was siffling up, rustling papers in the bottom of the basket. "Our rate is 2,000 a minute," Piccard said. "Maybe more. The needle only goes to 2,000." This must be fast. I thought?that heavy fabric, the basket, and five people totaling one ton, and the fabric still curling in. As our parachute got smaller, we would go faster.
"I knew, I told you...and I don't even get to be a widow," whimpered Joan Piccard.
"We'll make a parachute landing. Don knows what he is doing," said Tony Bryan.
1,000 FEET TO GO
"We're in the hands of the Lord," said Piccard.