But that year, the number one thing to do, was ride the got air balloon. It was a tethered ride, but to all of us middle schoolers, it was the best thing ever.
I was standing in line with a few of my friends, waiting to get into the basket of this hot air balloon. We waited for a long time. I watched as time after time, people floated up for a bit and then came back down.
Now, you have to understand that, it was a different place when I was in school. You could do stuff like this without people freaking out about safety regulations. Heck, when I was younger, we had that metal slide in kindergarten that was a story tall. You slid down this metal slide that was hotter than the sun time and time again. No one worried that you’d get hurt. If you did fall off, it was no one’s fault but yours. And IF we fell off, we just walked it off.
This was the same kind of thing. If the rope broke and you floated away, well, you got in line for it.
Good times, good times.
There was one last group loading up, then it was our turn. I remember there was this guy in charge of it and all he would tell people that asked about the ride was, ‘As long as the weather permits, we will keep doing it.’ I had no idea what that meant unless he was talking about rain. I could see that. I just kept thinking; my parents would freak if they knew.
The basket held about 4 students and the guy that flew the balloon. I watched as they all piled in and the guy pulled the lever that shot flames into the top.
When I got in line, I was so excited for this ride, that I had made my mind up. Nothing was going to stop me from riding this thing.
Before the balloon could leave the ground a gust of wind whipped through. I watched as this huge hot air balloon was caught in this gust of wind and was thrust sideways, toppling over to the ground. The balloon itself crashed forcefully tipping the basket over, tossing people out. There were several screams from those inside. The fabric of the balloon seemed to melt into the ground when it collapsed.
I stood corrected. There were a few things that could stop me from riding.
People from all over the place rushed over to help. Somehow, they got the balloon upright and floating again. No one was hurt. I assumed they’d stop the ride right then. It was just to dangerous to fly this thing. I was wrong.
To my surprise, the man who oversaw the line looked at me and said, “You’re up. Let’s go.”
Sir, did that balloon hit you when it crashed down?
But as I said, those were different times. To my own surprise, I ACTUALLY GOT ON and I LOVED IT.
When I got home, I told my parents what had happened. As I laid out this vivid recreation of my day, I can only explain my parent’s expressions as blank. It was the kind of parent expression that hid what they were really thinking as I talked. Deep down they were probably screaming inside but remained calm on the outside. When I finished, my fathers only response was a flat, “Huh.”
My mother, blessed the woman, looked straight at me and said, “Well, I’m glad you had fun.”
What she meant was, ‘Well, I’m glad you didn’t die.’
The most important thing I learned about Earth that day, was that Mother Nature does what she wants. You’re just going along for the ride.