The 51-Foot Drop

Layla Loew, Writer

It seems that no matter how often I remind myself that I’m afraid of heights, I always find myself on top of a mountain or riding the “tallest roller coaster loop in America” at Six Flags. In this case, I was at a church camp when I faced yet another terrifying encounter with acrophobia. 

Growing up with only a father, I was taught to face my fears and overcome challenges that stood in my way. Whether it be dirt bike riding, or public speaking, my dad believed that if I immersed myself in the things that scared me enough times, then I would eventually not be scared of them anymore. He always told me to “do something a little scary at least once everyday,” which I suppose is why I always found myself in these uneasy situations. 

The first step to trying something new and a little frightening was signing up for the week-long stay at Hume Lake Christian Camps. At this camp, there was a significant amount of time alloted for activities independent from the camp’s chapel agenda, one of these activities was what they called “The 51-Foot Drop,” which for some reason I willingly signed myself up to do (apparently I can’t help but subject myself to anxiety-ridden situations).

When we got there, the instructors led us to a huge redwood with a single platform at the top of it, with a rope and pulley. The fact that I had to crane my neck to look up at it should have been enough to scare me away, but still, I found myself fighting with the sensical part of myself. 

I knew that as soon as I got up there I would regret it, but I still couldn’t fight the urge to try it at least once. I could practically hear my dad telling me to try it at least one, so I did. Soon I was being harnessed in and hauled up to the platform. The funny thing was that I wasn’t even that nervous‒until I reached my destination.

The instructor at the top reached out his hand to help me on the platform and hooked my harness to the rope that I would jump with. Once everything was clicked in, I knew this was the part where I was supposed to jump, but I was frozen in place. After about two lengthy seconds, the instructor looked at me and said “jump.” I looked back at him with an expression that must have just looked like pure fear, but I walked further out onto the platform until my toes hung off the very edge. At this point, I knew there was no way in hell I was just going to “jump” off that platform, but I also knew that there was no going back. 

I closed my eyes. I realized that at this moment, I could end my fear of heights if I just took that last step off the platform. I would be safe on the ground again, no longer carrying the fear that I once held onto for so long. I took a deep breath, and with my exhale I took that last step.

I don’t remember much after that except that my bone-rattling shriek nearly scared my peers half to death. When my shaky limbs finally touched the earth, my friends came up to me to tell me that I sounded like a banshee, but I could barely hear them over the sound of my own laughter.