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A man who feared for his life in a skydiving incident never got to thank his savior

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's time now for My Unsung Hero. It's our series from the team at Hidden Brain, which tells stories about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else. Today's story comes from Alan Ayers.

ALAN AYERS: My unsung hero involves an incident that happened over 50 years ago. In 1970, I was participating in a skydiving jump meet in Gainesville, Fla., and we had a team competition. And for the team competition, myself and two others were jumping out of a Cessna 172. And for the jump meet, they had removed the passenger door and the front passenger seat, but unfortunately the seat belt remained and was still buckled. And as I left the plane, I tripped over the seat belt and fell out the door with the seat belt looped around my ankle.

I was completely out of the plane, on my back, staring up at the belly of the Cessna with only my boot visible to the pilot, who is the only person left in the plane. I tried to pull myself up to reach the buckle, but I just couldn't. I was pretty much helpless and totally out of options. And what happened next was incredible. The 23-year-old pilot unbuckled her seat belt, crouched down in the door of an airplane with both hands off the yoke and freed my ankle. I tumbled away and safely opened my chute.

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AYERS: And to this day, I can see her two, young hands reaching out of the door to unbuckle the belt.

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AYERS: When I landed - in the confusion after I got down - I wasn't able to find her to thank her. I owe my life to this person and will always think of her as one of the bravest people imaginable.

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BLOCK: Alan Ayers lives in Lancaster, Pa. He says this incident taught him a lot about remaining calm in dangerous situations. He no longer skydives, but he still likes to spend time in the air hang gliding.

You can find more stories from My Unsung Hero wherever you get your podcasts. And to share the story of your unsung hero, record a voice memo on your phone and email it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.