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PEACEMAKER STUNT

by Dana Hee
August 2001

(1988 Olympic Gold Medalist, Hollywood Stuntwoman, Motivational Speaker)

  “Ok, this is definitely crazy!” This thought runs rampant across my brain, flashing like a bright red neon stoplight. I'm standing in a small 8’ by 10’ façade of a room filled with explosives - as my fellow stunt comrade and I slather the bare skin on our faces, neck and arms one last time with a gooey fire protecting gel. “Ready”, our boss asks over the walki? We give each other one last look, a nod, and quietly reply that we are. We take our starting positions. From outside we hear the shout on the megaphone, “EXPLOSIVES GOING HOT!” We turn our heads away from the multitude of bombs glaring at us from the front left corner; all of 4 feet from us. “EXPLOSIVES HOT!” With hearts pounding, we turn back to face our target. “SPEED!” We tense, prepared to take that first running step toward the welcome light beckoning us from the outside of the huge, beautiful, stained glass window in front of us. Then there ‘s a pause from outside……is there a problem?

  Even though I'm chilled from the fire gel, I know my palms and forehead would be glistening with sweat if they weren't covered with the goop. My mouth is so, so dry, and I can feel my body transcend into that ‘other state of being,’ as the adrenaline surges through my blood like a locomotive. It’s like the calm that is felt before the storm, and I know what’s coming next. My vision narrows until all I see is my target, a beautiful red half moon design in the wall of glass. I see nothing else. I slow my breathing and notice my heart beating calmly in a strange contradiction to the circumstance. Even my partner, standing 12 inches to the left of me has disappeared from my senses. Then I hear the voice on the megaphone, muffled as if I am in a thick fog. “READY…. AND…ACTION!” As we sprint towards the window, intending to jump through as the explosives go off, one thought becomes amazingly clear. “One mistake and I'm dead!”

  One, two, three steps. We both arrive at the window at the same time; two perfectly matched performers in some macabre ballet. Up I go, punching my body through the glass, the weird crunching/splintering sound echoing in the silence in my ears. Just as I glimpse the clear blue sky and feel the fresh air on my face, I feel a startling pinpricking burn on my back and arms. The percussive boom of that first bomb echoes a half of a heartbeat later. “HOLY GEEZ!” All I can think of is that I must get down as fast as possible to the ground before the second, bigger bomb goes off! I feel as if I am in a slow motion dream as I finish clearing the glass…. then the 2’ wide sidewalk below…. and finally….approach the ground from the five-foot drop. Just as my foot touches the ground, I feel a rush of heat, and sense the wall of flame rushing towards me. As my head drops a foot further, I hear a tremendous “BOOM.” My mind goes blank, and all is quiet again, as I roll frantically away from the window. After a moment or so of bright orange light, then darkness, my senses return. I see flames and flying debris through the thick black smoke, I feel burning and heat, I smell the acrid stench of the fuel, and I hear the sound of debris landing all around me. I roll to a stop and lie quietly, waiting for the director to yell, "CUT." Just as the paramedics rush to my smoldering side, I realize that, "I DID IT!" and a pride of accomplishment sweeps over me. As the safety team hoses me down with water, and helps me to my feet, I wonder how it is, that I, a young woman with little self-confidence, and a history of running from a challenge, have wound up risking my life in a huge Hollywood movie. The paramedics are looking at us like, “why in the world would anyone do something so crazy!” As the siren of the ambulance screams and we head off to the emergency room to tend to the resulting burns and gashes, I smile to myself, because I know the answer to that question.