“You have to be mad once in your life, and this is my mad moment!”
They’re the words of 70 year old cancer survivor, Clane woman Bernadette Plunkett less than 24 hours before she jumped out of a plane over Clonbullogue.
Having beaten breast cancer two years ago, and having turned 70 in February, Bernadette decided to celebrate both by raising money for cancer.
Hoping for E5,00, the fund has already exceeded E6,500.
“People are so good. They’re unbelievable!” she told the Leinster Leader.
She announced her intentions to her family before Christmas. She had heard “whispers in the background” about plans for her birthday, “so I said, I’ll put a stop to them now.
“I said to them, look lads, I’m going to do a tandem parachute jump – sure at my age you don’t need a party.
“Well when they picked themselves up off the ground after the shock, they were very supportive.”
Bernadette has four children, three daughters and a son, and four grandchildren, three sons and a daughter.
She says that when she had cancer, her family “stood back and let me fight it my own way.
“They were there to support me whenever I wanted it, but didn’t crowd me which I deeply appreciated,” she explained.
Speaking to the Leinster Leader again on Monday morning, Bernadette described the jump as “unbelievable. It was the experience of a lifetime.
“When he (Peter Breen, the experienced parachuter Bernadette was attached to) opened the door of the plane, my two legs fell out and I thought “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what am I doing?!
“But he pushed me out and we fell for one mile at 120 mph headfirst. The noise and the wind was amazing and then he opened the parachute and it all slowed down and was peaceful and calm,” she said.
After they had passed through the cloud, Mr Breen showed her the sights.
“He showed me Edenderry, Rathangan, Clonbullogue, even Newbridge.
“It felt like two hours, but it was only 15 to 20 minutes.
“There was a photographer falling beside me taking the pics, and they made a video as well.”
Bernadette’s son David was supposed to join her in her bid, have collected sponsorship money for it in the UK where he lives, but he got stuck in really bad traffic for five hours.
“He was supposed to fly from Heathrow, but went back to Bristol and was put on stand-by for a flight and he waited there until nearly noon the next day, but in the end he didn’t make it.”
It’s expected that he will come over in the week or two to complete the jump.
“We sent him pictures from it and he was very disappointed to have missed it.”
Asked if she’d do it again, she had no doubts. While Bernadette said she wouldn’t do the fund-raising aspect again, but jumping out of a plane - “I’d love to!
“Sure there was a woman in the next plane who was 80 years of age. I felt young!” she added.