Dream of flight becomes reality for people with spinal cord injuries at iFLY in Ashburn
At iFLY in Ashburn, Virginia, the dream of flight comes alive in a freefall simulator. The experience of being in a vertical wind tunnel facing 100-mile-per-hour winds can be nerveracking. The barriers of fear and nervousness are understandable for participants like Joanna Bonilla.
“I’m excited, nervous, like everything mixed,” Bonilla said. But what’s not holding her back is the fact that she can’t walk into this vertical wind tunnel. “Instead of walking I roll,” Bonilla said.
Monday was “All Abilities Night” at iFLY, where people with spinal cord injuries moved out of their comfort zones and into the world in indoor skydiving. “We are really changing the way the world sees paralysis by doing these events. This is not usual,” Joshua Basile said.
Basile runs Determined2Heal, a non-profit that mentors people recently injured. He brought nearly 20 people to the event. “I feel it empowers her that she is capable of doing anything,” Lisa Essich said.
Essich’s daughter, Lea Edgecomb, has been a quadriplegic for nearly a decade. After Edgecomb finished her time in the wind tunnel she told ABC7, “it was really cool when I was going up and like diving down.”
As for Bonilla, this moment reminds her how far she’s come since her injury six years ago. “When they take you up to the top it’s the best feeling in the world and you just breathe it in and let go of everything. It was amazing,” Bonilla said. The goal here was to empower people to live their fullest lives by moving beyond the outdated barriers that no longer define the disability community.
“Most anything is still possible. And if you can go indoor skydiving your next challenge is a lot easier,” Basile said.