The Hamilton Spectator, June 23.
It’s the closest I’ll come to being a superhero — that’s what went through my mind when my editor asked if I wanted to rappel a skyscraper Monday afternoon.
In the great game of “if I could have any superpower …” I’ve never chosen the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, so I don’t know what my logic was.
Certainly not as solid as the reason 86 local residents have for doing the same thing on Tuesday. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they’ll step off the roof of Stelco Tower — a 103-metre building located at MacNab Street and King Street West — as a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hamilton & Burlington.
By Monday evening, the group was on track to raise $100,000.
Natalie Michlewicz, manager of communications for Big Brothers, said it’s an incredible turnout for the first-time event. The organization plans to use rappelling as an annual fundraiser now that they have exclusive rights in this area to Over the Edge, an organization that offers urban rappelling as a signature event for nonprofits.
The group is a team of pros who truss you up in your full-body harness, train you on the ropes (at a much lower height), teach you how the belay devices (and their backups and the backups to their backups) work and eventually coach you off the roof.
Still, even with all these reassurances, it was tough to take that step when the time came (especially in light of a last-minute debate about whether or not we’d seen lightning in the gathering clouds).
I rock climb. I’ve gone cliff-diving. I once jumped off a mountain strapped to nothing but a filmy parachute and a tiny Austrian man. But there was a moment, with my heels hanging over the edge of the roof, where I thought I might not physically be able to do it.
Almost as quickly though, another thought followed — if I don’t, I will never again be able to leave my house without seeing Stelco Tower pressed against the sky, a kind of bat signal symbolizing my own cowardice.
So I zombie-walked backwards.
After the sheer terror of the first two storeys (it takes a while to get your body at the proper angle), it took another few storeys to get the hang of lifting rope with one hand and feeding it through the belay device with the other.
Halfway down, however, it started to feel almost normal (though not so much that I looked anywhere but straight at the glass wall in front of me or to my right at Spectator photographer John Rennison). As though it might even be as safe to tiptoe down the side of a King Street building as it is to stroll a King Street sidewalk.
When I hit the roof of Jackson Square, I was thrilled, exhilarated and happy to be back in my comfort zone — writing about the experience from a chair in the newsroom. Hey, even Superman had a day job.