SC skydivers experience eclipse in a truly unique way - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

SC skydivers experience eclipse in a truly unique way

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(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)
ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

On a day that most people along the path of totality were looking up, the Special Forces Parachute Team was looking down as the moon’s shadow swept across Earth – 12,000 feet below.

It started early in the morning with a couple practice jumps.

“We haven’t practiced this. It’s the middle of the night, as far as we’re concerned, in darkness. We’re jumping with pyrotechnics, which shoots out flaming streams of molten aluminum or something. I don’t know what we have to be worried about, really," said Burke Fitzpatrick, with the Carolina Skydiving Team, who's from Irmo.

Hours later, it was almost time.

“This is – they’re going to make me buy beer on this one – yeah, this is my first eclipse, said Bo Kinnison, of Oregon, with the Special Forces Parachute Team. "You never say ‘first’ in the skydiving world.”

As the moon began eclipsing the sun, the the four skydivers suited up, prayed, and then boarded.

The helicopter climbed and climbed and climbed to a bone-chilling height -- 12,000 feet above Orangeburg County.

Then, during totality, they jumped.

“It was just extraordinarily celestial event. And from our vantage point, most of the time in freefall, we’re not looking up. The rest of the world was looking up. We’re looking down," said Fitzpatrick.

“Now you know why birds sing. You know, they’re flying around up in that air, and we’re flying around up there. That’s why they sing, and that’s why we sing," added Kinnison.

Minutes later, a growing sliver of sun illuminated the earth below.

“It was worth it to us. It was worth it to us. As skydivers, we’re not going to get this opportunity again, so we’re just grateful we did it, we had it, and everybody’s down safe," Fitzpatrick said.

For Fitzpatrick, it was satisfying enough to call his last – his last after a 39 year career.

A number of groups made the jump possible:  Carolina Skydivers, the Special Forces Association Parachute Team, Celebrate Freedom Foundation, and Sunshine Recycling.

The skydivers perform all over – most of the time for America’s military heroes.

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