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The choices we make

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mindy Bloem
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
I still remember it so clearly. My youngest brother Brian was into climbing mountains in my hometown of Pennsylvania. Now these mountains weren't exactly Everest but they were formidable in their own right. One day he was telling me about a mountain he had recently climbed and asked me if I wanted to go hike it with him. He assured me I could climb it no problem, and as an added incentive, threw into the conversation that "Kate from 'LOST' could do it." Well, since I am a big fan of that show, those words were the final motivation I needed to get me to go with him. So one bright, sunny summer day in Clarks Summit, Pa., my brother and I set off to climb a mountain. I was keeping up with him, and even thought of making these treks a regular routine in my life. And if I slowed for even a moment, my brother was quick to point out that "Kate from 'LOST' would not slow down," and I would grudgingly move a bit faster. Then it happened. We arrived at a fairly intimidating rock formation, and Brian went ahead of me to test it out. After he got to the top, he called down and told me that I go around instead of trying to climb it. But I didn't want to go around. For one thing, it would take much longer, and for another, I wanted to be adventurous. I quickly scanned the landscape and saw there were several rooted branches extending out from the formation, which would serve as grips for me while I climbed. I grabbed one and pulled on it to make sure it was strong enough to hold me. I informed Brian of my decision, and once again heard him yell down to me not to be stupid and to go around. I flippantly yelled back to him: "Kate from 'LOST' could do it," and with that I began my ascent. I was doing pretty well too, but as I neared the top, I began to lose footing. I was holding one of the rooted branches with my right hand and brought my left hand up to grab hold of another one when I heard the worst sound in the world: SNAP! All I remember thinking was, "Oh crap!" And then I was falling. I vaguely recall my brother hollering my name, but it was too late. My back was the first thing to make contact with a solid surface, but it was only for a moment. The lower half of me slammed hard on a slated rock, jutting out of the formation, but the other half of me was still in the air. This unbalanced position caused my feet to swing over my head, making me tumble backwards down the mountain. Thank God I skidded to a stop on a ledge or I would have continued falling down the mountain. When I finally stopped, the pain seemed to flood over me in one quick motion. I won't go into detail about the painful recovery process, but what I will tell you is that it happened because of a stupid decision I made. I know we are constantly getting told to think before we act, to not drink and drive, to be responsible; and much of the time, those messages go in one ear and out the other. Why? Because we can be dumb and foolish, and most of the time, we get away with being dumb and foolish so we do it again. But all it takes is one moment - one irreversible instant that brings consequences that will never go away. I was lucky. My bad decision could have ended in death, paralysis or any number of complications, simply because of one lousy decision. My cousin Lindsay was not so lucky. She was driving home after praying for the victims of 9/11 on that very day, and someone who was drunk and high on heroin crossed into her lane and hit her vehicle. My aunt and uncle had to pull the wreckage off her as she drew her final breaths. She was newly married and expecting her first child. She was only 19 years old. It takes just one bad decision. Just one. If you have been lucky enough to have not hurt yourself or anyone else due to a bad decision, be thankful for that, and vow to not put yourself in that situation again. I later climbed that mountain, but I went around the long way and I still got to see the breathtaking view from the top. Be smart. No one is telling you not to drink. Just do it without putting yourself or anyone else in harm's way.