When I chose a career path, one of the reasons I chose journalism is because you never know how your day is going to turn out. Personally, I never wanted a job where I knew exactly what was going to happen every single day. Usually, my day to day is kind of predictable, but fun. You never know when breaking news will happen and my assignments themselves lead me in some fascinating directions. Then there are days in my career so far, that I get to do something I may have only dreamt of, or might have only crossed my mind. I have had the opportunity to photograph United States presidents and cover concerts, performances trek up Colorado mountains to closed areas to photograph wildfire damage and more. This week, I had another peak experience.
I have always loved flying and heights. I have plenty of other fears, but heights are not one. I’ve had the opportunity to fly many places and any time I am lucky enough to get a window seat, I usually spend the entire flight gazing out the window. Each terrain is different and fascinating to me. The plains of the Midwest actually look like a quilt pattern from high up in the sky. The Rocky Mountains and the Alps are astounding enough from the ground, but from above, the earth starts to look like an alien terrain. The Atlantic Ocean is bright and vast as the water reflects back the sunshine.
This Wednesday was seemingly just like any other day. I pulled into the parking lot of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph offices, gathered my coffee, purse and lunch when Bluefield Daily Telegraph photographer Jessica Nuzzo ran over to my car and excitedly yelled, “Do you want to go up in a helicopter today?”
My response? Heck yes.
Due to construction on the Christine West Bridge, after Gov. Jim Justice broke ground on the King Coal Highway project in Bluefield on May 1, we needed some aerial photographs of the project. The project will link Rt. 460 to Airport Road and will allow motorists to drive to Brushfork, Bluewell, Bramwell and into McDowell County without going through Bluefield. In addition, it will provide more direct access to the Mercer County Airport from I-77.
Luckily, W.Va. state Senator Chandler Swope who is very generous with his time and also happens to own a helicopter offered to take us up to get those photographs. For my part, I was there to take video and because I was ahead of schedule on my deadlines, I could take an hour for a once in a lifetime experience.
Jessica and I arrived at the Mercer County airport and within minutes we were walking on the tarmac towards Senator Swope’s helicopter. After fueling up and strapping in, we were off. I immediately leaned into the feeling of weightlessness and peered through the large windows. Many times throughout our flight, I lost my place in the terrain, only able to find landmarks on the highways. Senator Swope was an incredible host and pilot, asking if we needed him to fly higher or to another location.
We ended up flying from the Mercer County Airport and circling around Concord University and back. It was a beautiful spring day and the sun made shadows of the clouds on the mountains of Mercer County. It was stunning and as cheesy as it may sound, I needed that new perspective. I won’t go into details here, but it is no mistake that in a time of darkness, I was given the opportunity to literally see my life from a new perspective.
The flight lasted about for about 30 minutes and we got every photograph and video we needed and more. Jessica took a photo of me with the most genuine smile on my face as a gazed out the windows, when I did not even know she had turned her lens toward me. It is comforting to see my own face back in a smile and wonderment.
As we touched down at Mercer County Airport, I was overcome with gratefulness and peace. Yes, life can be tough, but as we flew above the place I’ve chosen to call home, a thought occurred to me. We live through the valleys, but we live for the peaks of life and everything in between.