I leant back over the edge of one of the city’s tallest buildings, trying not to notice the ant-sized people below. After all, I was about to join them.
In Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, Hunter S. Thompson writes about The Edge. “The Edge…there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over,” he writes.
That’s where I was going.
Over The Edge is an annual fundraising event benefiting Special Olympics athletes. Special Olympics teams with Over The Edge, hosting an exclusive 203-foot rappel down the side of the New Mexico Bank & Trust building. Participants must raise $1,000 in order to go “Over The Edge.” (It’s been going on since 9 a.m. this morning, so if you’ve seen people scaling the skyscraper, don’t worry. They’re doing it on purpose.)
But yesterday was media day, and as a staff writer of Albuquerque The Magazine, I had the opportunity to experience this exhilarating event.
On the fifth floor, I met with Heather Scott, resource development associate with Special Olympics New Mexico. She had me sign a waiver (you know it’s going to be interesting when a waiver is involved) and I changed into my awesome Over The Edge shirt. Somebody cue up the Rocky theme song…it’s time to get pumped.
Albuquerque Police Department’s Interim Chief Allen Banks geared up and headed to The Edge. Then I was on deck, and it hit me. Matthew Jachowski, staging manager with Over The Edge, helped me gear up. I slipped into a harness with clips dangling all over it it. I put on my gloves and then my helmet. Jachowski has gone Over The Edge more than 30 times, he says. I start to shake a little bit, and try not to let the shakes get into my voice–but Jachowski notices. “I was nervous too,” he says calmly. “The first time you dangle out over 330 feet, it is a bit nerve-wracking.”
I headed to the top of the building–what a view! It was the first time I’ve looked down on these downtown buildings.
I was really nervous. No joke. Thank goodness I get a little lesson before actually rappelling down the building, learning what the clips and buckles actually do. So I practiced: grab the rope to the right, fist up, and press on the red clip near my chest to rappel down. Easy enough, right?
It was time. I leaned back, trying not to notice that there was nothing between me and the sidewalk along Fourth Street.
Before I knew it, I was halfway down, essentially walking on the side of the building like Spider-Man. It wasn’t so bad!
Getting braver, I decided to press the clip a little harder, which made me fall a little faster. Soon enough, I was on the ground. Adrenaline was coursing through my body as my feet hit the sidewalk.
Randy Mascorella, executive director of Special Olympics New Mexico, was waiting for me at the bottom.
“It was awesome, wasn’t it?” she asks. “I mean really, did the adrenaline leave your legs when you hit the bottom?”
“Yes and yes,” I say.
Special Olympics athlete Ken Patton put a gold medal around my neck and I felt quite accomplished.
Give it up for anyone who raised money and went Over The Edge today. It is not easy. Maybe you can raise money and try it next year!
Don’t be a square, visit the State Fair
Still looking for something to do? Don’t forget the New Mexico State Fair lasts through this Sunday, Sept. 22. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo continues tonight, featuring a performance by Aaron Lewis. Tomorrow showcases more PRCA action with a performance by Eli Young Band.
No excuses not to get out there! After all, it only happens once a year.
Photos: Don James/ATM