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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

ONE KEY TO INSPIRATION

Sometimes it's important to remind yourself where you started out in life...and where you are now. I was looking through some old stories that I wrote for magazines and such...and came across two from back when I started out in Hollywood...and the second one...from when I was on a 'roll' doing back-to-back cool films. My words from years ago help to re-generate my soul from time to time. Perhaps you can find your own cool stories to remember!

Fighting Fear With Fear
“I still recall that day on the set of the Natassja Kinski film, “Bella Mafia,” as if it were yesterday. It was the day I did my first car hit in my career as a Hollywood Stuntwoman. I remember standing on the paved road in my yellow sundress and strap sandals with the sun warming my back, and glinting off the metallic silver bumper of the car rapidly closing in on me. It approached much faster than what I had envisioned it would. There was a moment of extreme panic and fear, and I felt like bolting from its path. Then, the fear was replaced by the sudden rush of adrenaline that surged like a locomotive through my body. Steeling myself to focus on what had to happen next, I bent my knees in anticipation of the slight thrust upwards I would make on contact. As the bumper caught me and lifted me into the air, the ‘whack’ of my body slamming against the hood resonated in my ears for a moment before being swallowed by an intense silence, as I was spit up and over the top of the car. There was a surprising and disorienting sense of peace as I spun through the air, catching glimpses of blue, then brown…before landing with a resounding thud on the side of the road.”

You know, you’ve really got to wonder about the Mario Andretti’s of this world! And, likewise, all of the skydiving, bull riding, bungee jumping extreme-adrenaline freaks!! Why do they do what they do? Why would anyone purposely put themselves in harms way? I wonder if it’s for the same reason I’ve been doing just that for the last sixteen years.

From competing in full-contact fighting in the Olympic Games, to performing dangerous and debilitating stunts for Hollywood films, I’ve evan had moments where I’ve thought that I must be insane. What compels me to place myself in front of an oncoming car, or allow someone to jerk me thirty feet through the air and slam me into the nose of an airplane? Hmmm….perhaps it’s because I’ve wanted to forget about the painful scars of my childhood…the years of life in an orphanage, with alcoholic, suicidal, abusive family members, on the streets, in halfway houses, a government shelter, and a foster home. Maybe it’s been an effort to strip myself of my negative self-image, and cloak myself in the resulting praise and admiration of my peers. What I do know, without a doubt, is that I have been driven by the need to face my fears head on.

I guess if I had come into the world feet first, I wouldn’t have felt so compelled to challenge my fate, as I would’ve been able to hit the ground running. As it was, my rocky start in life did nothing to ensure that I would be able to hold my head high in society. Indeed, I was handicapped with a huge lack of self-esteem and confidence. Luckily for me though, I was too hardheaded to accept defeat with humility and grace. So after years of struggling against the force of the whirlpool trying to pull me down, I forced my head up out of the water, and struck out swimming.

You know, it’s amazing what one can accomplish with a spark of hope and a lot of determination. When I finally took hold of my life I was actually able to make my dreams of Olympics, Hollywood, and life come true. I guess it’s a tribute to the strength and courage of mankind that someone like myself was able to rise from the ashes, and hover in the clouds. Then again, maybe it has nothing to do with strength or courage.

Personally, I feel my successes in life have much more to do with fear…fear that I’m not good enough, fear of pain and humiliation, fear of the unknown, and most of all, fear of failure. For me, it was fortunate that I finally recognized that, ‘that’ was what was holding me back in life. It is equally fortunate that I felt a burning need to change that. The fact that I chose to face and conquer my fears is commendable. The fact that I chose to face fear with more fear, is nuts! Or is it?

From stair falls, to car hits, that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that I get when I face fear, and pull off a death-defying stunt makes me feel good about myself. It reinforces the fact that it is possible to put my fears aside, if only for a time, and accomplish what I set out to do. It’s a very empowering feeling! And it’s a recipe for success I’ve used many times now.
I wonder…. perhaps that is what drives the Mario Andretti’s of this world, this fear factor, and the need to face it…perhaps not. All I know, is that when the paramedics are rushing me to the hospital after yet another near-death encounter, and are shaking their heads saying, “Why in the world would anyone do such crazy work!” I smile to myself, because I know the answer to that question. Call me crazy if you want, but I have learned to fight fear, with fear. Instead of cowing away from the challenges and trials of life, I meet them head on, or upside down, or in front of a car. I now know that the only thing worse than failure is being too afraid to even try. Now, when someone asks me to jump, I say, “how high?”
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Face Your Fears!
“I can't believe I'm about to do this!” This thought flashes through my brain as I lean forward to place tension on the thin cable attached to the jerk vest hidden beneath my baggy clothing. I slow my breathing down. The tension mounts around me, and the acrid stench of the torches burns into my throat. I can almost feel the simulated, nighttime darkness envelope me in its shroud. You see, I am a stunt double for an actress; and I'm about to be shot with a flamethrower device and knocked backwards through the air, and down into a gully, as several bombs explode. I see everyone scurrying around me, and I feel like the calm in the center of a storm. The special effects guy double checks the fire squib he has placed on my stomach. My ratchet man is talking with me about my starting mark and my arm placement. The hair lady makes a final adjustment to my hair, as the bomb ‘squad,’ adjusts the propane bombs and debris cones that are on both sides to the front of me. My boss asks if I’am ready. I give a nod and a thumbs up sign. All of a sudden everybody scatters and disappears into the darkness. All is quiet. I keep the tension on the line and close my eyes as I hear the effects team say, “The bombs are going hot!” From my cocoon of darkness I hear the shout on the megaphone, “Cameras Rolling!” “Speed!” “And on three. One….two….THREE!” Simultaneously I feel the blast of heat, and I am jerked backwards and up. My eyes open and I see smoke, then darkness. I feel like I am swimming in the air. I fly backwards, 10ft…. 20ft… Hmmm, I seem to be traveling further than I did in the rehearsals. I should be free falling backward to the pads by now! Then I drop. And just as the thought dawns on me that I'm going to miss the pads, I feel a mighty “THWACK” to my head, and all goes black.

Ahhh….the life of a Hollywood stuntwoman! Ok, call me crazy, but I'm perfectly happy to be flying through the air, jumping through burning windows and slamming myself into walls. Well…maybe I'm a little happier when there is no pain or headache involved, but still, I'm definitely hooked on this wild roller coaster of a career!

Now, I'm sure you’re asking yourself, “Why in the world would anyone choose such a hazardous career?” Well, have you ever wanted something so badly that you didn't even try to accomplish it, because you were afraid you would find you couldn't do it? I call it a fear of failure. That was the story of my life; that is, until I learned to defeat my fears by facing up to the challenges of my mind. I came from a background of sexual abuse, abandonment, and the ravages created by suicidal, and alcoholic parents and relatives. I had no self-confidence or self-esteem. What I did have, was a bad habit of thinking, “I can’t,” along with a petrifying fear of disappointment, anger, hurt, and humiliation. As a result, I would typically run from any challenge of the mind, body, or soul. I was my own worst enemy when it came to succeeding with something, and I was sick of it!

So when that first call came for me to double the villainess on the film Under Cover Blues down in Lafayette, Louisiana. I jumped at the chance. When the fear of those first few stunts started to get in the way, I pushed them ruthlessly aside and did what I had to do. Afterwards, when I realized that I had completed the stunt successfully - even though my brain had been saying I couldn't - I was enveloped in a euphoric, “walking on clouds” feeling of accomplishment. At last, I had discovered a good battleground where I could focus on conquering my fears, and I was determined to win! So off I went to Hollywood.

Leaving behind my nine to five job in accounting, the Friday night parties, and Monday night football on the couch with my man, life, I jumped into my new career, and learned to face my fears on a daily basis. As my experience and skills expanded, the jobs kept coming….Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Demolition Man, Lethal Weapon 4, Charlie’s Angels, Swordfish, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Independence Day, plus an ongoing list of television shows like Star Trek Voyager, The Pretender, VIP, and the X-Files. Never would I have dreamed of being able to do the stunts I did with helicopters, jeep chases, jet ski-boat transfers, stair falls, saddle falls, jumps from buildings-through glass-over fences, hydraulic ratchets into walls – the ground- into other people. I would have never dared to be hit by a car wearing nothing but a sundress and sandals (Bella Mafia).

As one film led to another, I was swept up into a whirlwind of movie stars, travel, money, and extraordinary adventure. I spent weeks working with actors like Nicole Kidman, Uma Thurman, and Mel Gibson. I hung out on the set with George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone, Charlie Sheen and Gwynneth Paltrow. The productions flew me first class around the world to exotic locations to film. I galloped a horse in the sunset along the ancient cliffs and temples of Petra, Jordan (same local as Raiders of the Lost Ark). I fought in a hurricane in Wales, and then floated in a rickety boat down a mystical river in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, Thailand (Mortal Kombat Annihilation). There were side trips for shopping in London, museums in Paris, lounging on exotic beaches. And now, after a brief sojourn in Rome working with Cameron Diaz on Gangs of New York, I am on contract with a great new TV series called Alias. Although the glamour of this business can be fun, it can also be overwhelming. To keep my sanity, I try to balance my perspective of what is important, and what is real. (Imagine yourself walking on a very high tight-wire with your packed suitcase in one hand, and a martini in the other, and you'll get an idea of how difficult this can be.)

Beneath the glitz and the glamour, I have found the real counter-balance in this rocky career is the underlying magnet of satisfaction and self-accomplishment. After a lifetime of dealing with issues from my extremely difficult childhood, I welcome the challenges of this career. They have helped me balance and conquer those old feelings of low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and my fear of failure. (Not that I would recommend all people suffering from childhood trauma jump from buildings or launch themselves 20 feet through the air by stepping on a seriously dangerous mechanical device called an air ram)!

And now, after ten years, thousands of stunts, hundreds of movies, over 2,520 days of pain (excluding the five hospital trips and numerous doctor visits for burns, stitches, pulls, breaks, and concussions), I can honestly say that I still enjoy the challenges of my work. Sure there are times when I long for that nine to five, football night, bruise-free life. But when I'm sixty feet up on a huge 360 degree rotating shipping crane, about to start a big fight on a contraption consisting of a forklift, a motorcycle, and a car sandwiched together (Barbwire), I realize that, once again, I am conquering that debilitating fear I felt growing up. You see I know that the only thing worse than failing is to let fear keep you from succeeding at what you want to do. Hey, call me crazy if you want, but now, instead of running from a challenge, when I'm asked to jump, I say, “how high?”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Once an Olympian, Always an Olympian, Never Former...Never Past

Is a 'Demonstration Sport' athlete at the Olympic Games REALLY an Olympian? THIS....is the question. Kind of like...'to be'..or 'NOT to be'....eh? As a gold medalist at the 1988 Olympic Games in the demonstration sport of Taekwondo...this is a question that affects myself, my team mates, and many others. It has been a very confusing issue at times....so perhaps you can give me YOUR opinion.

I discovered some time after competing in the 24th Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, that according to the IOC (International Olympic Committee), 'demonstration sport' athletes were not fully recognized as 'Olympians.' According to the USOC (United States Olympic Committee), we 'used' to be considered Olympians (at the time I competed...in 1988). At the WOA General Assembly in 2003, WOA, the World Olympians Association revised its constitution and defined an Olympian as "an athlete accredited by an OCOG to compete in a full medal sport on the program at the Olympic Games. And now....according to recent correspondence with USOC president, one of my hero's, Willie Banks....

"Dana, Thank you for your email. Congratulations on your medal in the Seoul Olympic Games. I have been following a discussion on the definition of Olympian and I just discovered that the USOC Athletes Advisory Commission decided to endorse the definition of the World Olympians Association. THe only question that arises is whether any definition not accepted by the IOC is not really official. Therefore, the question is still very much open and debatable. As far as the US Olympians are concerned you will be treated as an Olympian within our organization until an official decision is made by the IOC and ratified by the US Olympians. Willie

Frankly....I find all of this quite fascinating, since I believe that there is no question, that...in my mind, I am an 'Olympian.' It is was I dreamed of...it is what I struggled so hard for...it is what I achieved...it is something that I will always encourage others to strive for and support...and it is what I will always feel that I am. The fact is....I qualified for what everyone called, 'the Olympic Team' in my sport of Taekwondo. Our U.S. Team trained at the Olympic Training Center gearing up for the Olympics. Myself and my team mates attended all Olympic ceremonies (opening/closing/send-off/U.S. Presidential White House, etc. with NO differentation between 'us' and other 'full-medal' athletes); we recieved all materials identifying ourselves as 'U.S. Olympic Team' members (even the most important items...such as underwear and socks! ha, ha).' Myself and others were awarded our medals that commemorates us as an Olympian winner in a demonstration sport at the Olympic Games...complete with Olympic rings. We recieved credit on television, magazines, and newspapers with the title of 'Olympic medalist in a demonstration sport.' And then, after the Games, I attended the International Olympic Academy as a delegate/representative from the United States with three other full-medal sport athletes. In fact...I don't believe I, or my team mates have done anything differently than any other full-medal athletes....even the athletes now competing in the full-medal sport of Taekwondo. So how is it then...that there are some out there that say that myself and others in my position cannot be called 'Olympians'.....or may not be called 'Olympians' in the future?

Hmmm...... Don't you just love these complicated, yet meaningless issues that crowd our minds when we are trying to sleep at night? Isn't it amazing how the human mind wants to find that little 'achilles heel' to rein in our sense of pride and accomplishment? Especially, when the truth of the matter is that, it doesn't really matter if anyone calls me an Olympian. When I remember how much I struggled and fought to change my life and make my dream come true...when I remember the agony and tears...the little triumphs, and then the setbacks. When I remember standing on that Olympic podium with my stomach in my throat and a huge smile on my face, and my fist raised in the air for that one moment in time....when I think back to that sense of overwhelming pride in seeing my country's national flag raising to the beautiful sound of our national anthem...I know that only one thing matters....I am a champion....not just in sports...but more importantly, I am a champion in life.

HOPE IS THE KEY TO LIFE

Please Watch the Film, "Into The Wild!" I often get emails from some of my fans and some of the people visiting my website. One day, I recieved an email which, despite my crazy schedule...I just had to respond to. It was a letter from a young man who was feeling like he had only anger and hate left in him....and that he could see no reason to keep going on with such a dark level of existence. I would like you, my viewers, to see my response to him....for I have been there myself (on some level). In my darkest hours of despair...I remember too well how hard and hopeless it seemed to find the light. I pray that some of this message will help those who view this message and are struggling to fight YOUR way to the surface of the whirlpool trying to suck you under.

"One of my brothers is also a 'broken soul,' but for the first time in his life, he's found a reason to want to 'live'... and that is because of his young daughter. We both think his issue is something amiss w/his brain chemistry...but he's never been able to get the right meds. We both believe that the right meds would help...but so far, he hasn't been able to get proper treatement, diagnosis and such because he feels that the prospect and ordeal, of 'trying' to get help...and then failing to find the relief/remedy needed...is so overwhelming, that he just can't bring himself to do it. So I thought I would share that with you...that YOU may be able to find some sense of hope with meds...or if not, perhaps, with something 'outside' your own world. And pershonally, I have found that, that 'something' includes interacting with others in a positive way. Being alone...feeling alone...feeling like there's no one out there that cares, can make you angry and bitter...and even MORE isolated. It's a nasty whirlwind of negativity that can suck the life right out of you. I know!
There's a new movie out that's called "Into the Wild," where the young man in the film ends up dying by accident while he tries to isolate himself by living in the wild. Before he dies...he carves the following words in a piece of wood in the broken down bus he's been living in... "Happiness only real when shared." I used to be a 'loner,' and I agree whole-heartedly w/him. It took me a LONG time, but I finally learned that it's really our friends and family and pets that can mean the world to us. Why else do we like to put their pictures on our refrigerators and walls? ;)
Also, please know... that nothing will ever change without 'movement.' In order to feel better about yourself or life...you need to start inching your way forward. That 'pursuit' of happiness can bring you happiness or at least a measureable sense of pride that you are not 'copping out' on life. I almost did that when I was 23. That's when I began to make small changes. And what I learned by making those changes...and finally having the courage to follow my dreams and try to find happiness is this...the thrill of victory IS worth the possible agony of defeat because there are consequences to our actions and ESPECIALLY our in-actions. Sure there's sometimes a price to pay in going for what you want...but the cost of NOT rising to the challenges is far greater. That one moment of victory...or even just the pursuit of victory, can bring you a lifetime of pride and satisfaction.
So I hope these words lend you the courage and hope to find some goodness in the world. It IS out there. You just have to start changing the lens on your camera and focus on finding those good things...not focusing on what causes you anger and angst. And when you find yourself dwelling on the negatives...you MUST find a way to focus on SOMETHING ELSE!Movies...upbeat music...animals and laughter has a way of helping with that.
Take care and God Bless!
dana"

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Secret of 'Success'....

"'Luck,' Is When Preparation Meets Opportunity!" This is what I was telling a business associate recently, when he was telling me about something that he had heard. He was talking about 'one-work wonders,' those who achieved a high level of success at one time...but never again. I told him that I was surprised about this...because I have found that 'success' is highly possible to repeat...if you just follow the formula you created the first time. His reply was this.... "Yes,,, a billionaire once told me that one of the things he looked for in backing people was the ability to put together a string of successes. Most folks get one.. lucky I suppose,, and then can't do another." My email back to him was as follows...

"I believe that 'luck' is when preparaton meets opportunity. Then again, I suppose I would think otherwise if I ever won the lottery. ha, ha... And I imagine that those of us mortals that only succeed once in life...do so of their own choosing. It's easier to 'choose' resignation and defeat rather than continuing to fight for what you want. I guess some of us are just so dang hard-headed we don't know when to give up! And fortunately for me....I've learned that when one thing doesn't work, it doesn't mean that it's not possible...I just need to find another way. .....kind of like the fly figuring out that if the window is closed...he might as well try to go out the kitchen door instead. But it took me 25 years before I even began to learn any of this, so I suppose that accounts for my determination, now that I do know that it's possible to make my dreams come true."

I'm working on a speech now for a speakers showcase next week in Santa Fe. I'm calling it, "The pursuit of Excellence." The thing is....most of us out there don't know about one of the tiny little secrets hidden in the pursuit of excellence....and that is, that it's all the little things that add up to big results. I'm not a hero, I'm not all that smart, I'm not even all that brave. It only seems like I am sometimes because I've learned where to keep my focus...on what I want, and NOT on all the difficulties. And I've learned that by pursuing excellence...I gain the number one thing that we all strive for in life....happiness. Now only if happiness automatically came with billions of dollars, I guess I would believe that 'luck just happens.'

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sequoia Detention Group

BOYS CLUB The other day I did a speaking engagement for a boys detention group...guys between the ages of 15-19 with a history of violence and issues with 'rage.' I was a bit hestitant to do the engagement because that type of group brings me real close to where I started out in life...and the connection between them and me becomes so strong...that sometimes it's overwhelming. At least, that's how it has been in the past. Only...this time, I found myself to be coming from a position of more 'strength' than I have in the past...and I found it not only rewarding, but also enjoyable. Afterwards...during the autograph signing, I was stunned with the intensity of each of the guy's appreciation and the extreme classiness and politeness that each young man presented when interacting with me. It makes me wonder what goes so wrong...that young men with this level of character on one side....can become so angry and distraught on another level. Then again....I guess I know.... injustice, abuse, abandonement, lack of leadership, wrong role models...the list goes on and on. I pray that my words from the heart did not fall on deaf ears.....words of strength and courage. Hey...I've been there, and I wish I knew then what I know now....that it IS possible to change your life around. It IS possible to learn how to live a better and happier life. It doesn't matter where you start out in life...and it doesn't matter where you end up. What matters most is how you live your life every single day!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Little Musings

I was reading an older book last night…about inspirational/motivational stories from top Olympians who became prominent motivational speakers. Some of the stories I absolutely loved. And with some, I was quite shocked to find that they were amazingly un-inspiring. I wonder if maybe it was the way they were written. But then, I guess it’s all a matter of how one particular person’s story ‘connects’ with the individual reading it. I like to think that my stories ‘connect with people, and can help them in some way. But I know that the reality is that my story probably does not connect strongly with those whom are already successful, and have discovered how to do what they want to do in life. And that’s ok. As a speaker…I can’t be everything for everyone, and if I can just reach the few who need that little bit of encouragement and some guidelines for success and happiness, I will be happy. Anyway….some of the ‘points’ that the Olympians covered in the book, made me realize some of the important revelations that I have discovered…

“It’s our dreams and passions in life that give us the courage and determination to succeed despite the difficulties.”

“Dreams,” are more than just an escape from reality. They are the definition of a new reality.”

“Nothing will ever change without movement!”

“Fear cannot be eliminated.” But you can eliminate its negative consequences.”

“To believe in yourself, it helps to believe in others.”

“In the realm of the stunt world, there are two definates. If you focus on the positive, your chances of success have just multiplied. If you focus on the negative, your fears…you will fail! And failure takes on a whole new meaning when you’re standing in front of an oncoming car!”

“Focus, is a simple matter of putting one foot in front of the other. What makes this difficult is that we sometimes forget to watch where we are going, or we try to start out with our shoe-laces tied together.”

“We all have a choice in life…and we MUST choose. So choose wisely!”

“Attitude is a choice we make that directly affects our success or failure.”

“A Bad Attitude shows everyone who you REALLY are.”

“A Good Attitude shows everyone your TRUE potential.”

“If we think it’s too hard…it is.” “If we think it’s possible…it is.”

“There’s a big difference between courage and bravado. One is heartfelt…the other is only skin-deep.”

“Preparation is the shell that holds the egg together. Without it, you just have one sticky gooey mess.”

“Preparation is the practice of making perfect.”

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

“Preparation allows us to take advantage of opportunity.”

“Focus, is ability to fool yourself into thinking that there is only one more round to go.”

“Focus, is the locomotive that brings you success. You put yourself on track, and go forward one rail-road tie at a time. After awhile, you’ll find yourself humming along that track saying…. “I think I can,” “I think I can,” “I think I can!”

“The difference between I can and I can’t is just one tiny ‘T.’ So don’t make it any harder than that!”

“I learned to change my thinking from “I can’t,” to “I can”…by learning to take one step forward, instead of two steps back!”

“If you have a bad attitude…Life happens.”

“If you have a positive attitude….you MAKE life happen!”

“Perseverance is when the ‘agony of defeat’ is NOT an option!”

Peacemaker Stunt

“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.