A typical Tuesday for me includes working scholarship hours in the provost’s office, attending a newspaper staff meeting, having lunch with a friend and attending reporting class.
Nov. 12 was different. Very different.
That day, I flew over the campus and Cookeville in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
The ride was part of week-long events sponsored by the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs in honor of our country’s veterans.
As an editor of The Oracle, I was invited to take a seat along with 10 faculty or staff members.
During a brief safety training session, the Tennessee National Guard pilots discussed their military experience and the ROTC program, specifics about the helicopter and explained pre-departure and in-flight procedures. Our group then headed across the street to President Phil Oldham’s front lawn where the helicopter stood out from the thin layer of snow covering the grass.
Earplugs in place, we climbed aboard and buckled ourselves into our seats – a task made more difficult by fingers numb from the freezing temperatures. I intentionally took a window seat so I could take pictures.
Flying scares me, but I felt excited as the helicopter lifted off the ground, blowing snow in all directions as it ascending into the sky.
In the next 20 minutes, we circled the campus. It’s amazing to see the school from this viewpoint. There was the dorm I lived in my freshman year, the library where I have spent countless hours studying, the intramural fields where I’ve played and watched numerous games, and the buildings where I attended class.
Feelings of nostalgia and gratitude arose as my whole college experience flashed through my mind.
We flew over Tucker Stadium and made our way west over Hooper Eblen Center toward the softball field. Then the helicopter turned slightly and headed south. It felt much warmer inside the aircraft now.
Seeing snow-covered Cookeville from a bird’s eye view, took my breath away.
We were so far up, it took me a moment to become oriented. We soared over the courthouse, and continued making our way south.
Cookeville looked miniscule from the air, as fields and woods surrounded the city. I could see the rolling Tennessee hills in the distance, speckled with snow and trees.
We crossed I-40 before turning back toward campus.
On the return, we saw the new fitness center, flew over the Quad, then over Derryberry Hall as we made our return back to where we started.
It was an uplifting experience, refreshing. The opportunity made me appreciative a school and a city that has become my home away from home.