BY TONI CASHNELLI
Fr. Roger Lopez was philosophical in his pre-event video.
"If I die, what a great way to go!" he said. Not everyone would agree.
Roger was preparing to rappel 325 feet down the side of a 26-story building in downtown Cincinnati. The video he made beforehand to explain preparations might well have been his last interview.
It wasn’t. "Lived. It was great," he e-mailed minutes after successfully landing on the sidewalk below.
Roger was one of 61 Good Samaritans who put their lives on the line Saturday for Rappel for a Reason to support the Aubrey Rose Foundation, which helps to offset the physical, emotional and financial drain faced by families with a child who is critically ill. Roger was rappelling on behalf of a 13-year-old boy who has already undergone two heart transplants.
Saturday, he and fellow Roger Bacon staffer Alyssa Flading checked in at 36 E. 7th St. at 8 a.m. After filling out the proper paperwork – including liability disclaimers – they were fitted with harnesses, helmets, gloves and a radio.
"Then we went to training in the stairwell, two of us with one trainer. He went over everything with ropes hanging from the ceiling" so they could simulate the suspension. "Then we were out on the roof. They hooked me up to the harness" and showed Roger the ladder leading up to the drop-off. "The edge is very high," he remembers thinking.
"Are you ready?" he asked the folks manning the ropes. They assured him they were. Next thing he knew, he was over the edge. "OK, turn to the left," Roger was told. Facing the outside of the building, he realized, "The only thing underneath me is the ground. I’m in position." Before dropping, "It was time to look at them and say, ‘Thanks a lot for everything you do.’"
At first, "I took it slow, to stop and look around and look at the world." From below, he heard a commentator on loudspeaker telling the world who he was and how he was doing. He also heard cheering.
"After the first quarter of the way down I’m like, ‘We’ll get this party going.’" A video of Roger shot by friend Brian Hoffman (and posted on Facebook) shows his speedy descent. "You were moving really fast," the announcer said later.
At the bottom, "People were waiting for me. When you get down, it’s so good to be on the ground. My arms were tired, just so tired." He waited for Alyssa. "Then I went and had breakfast and went and had a beer."
Would he do it again?
"Oh yeah. All the fear and anxiety of not knowing what it would be like would be gone. It was a blast."
We’ll take his word for it.
Fr. Roger's reflection on the event:
I’m a friar; call me crazy
Rappelling off a 26-story building is crazy. But so is consecrating one’s life to God. Think about it: As Friars Minor, we profess that we will give our whole self to the fraternity with all our heart. What does that mean? Beyond no honey, money or funny, we strive to grow in humility with self. We tear open our soul in vulnerability, listen with an open heart, and strive to embrace the weakest and fearful parts of our humanity. I don’t know about you, to many...that’s crazy! Compared to such, 26 stories does not sound that insane.
Like rappelling, I’m not a master at our vowed life. But, I’m working through it and I have lots of brothers who love, support and challenge me. That’s my safety harness, and I’m glad the Lord gave me my brothers. –Fr. Roger Lopez, OFM