Two words went through Mark Hefley's head in the moments after he leaned too far back and toppled off an 11th-floor Florida balcony on Tuesday.
The first word was "Oh"; the second was an expletive that won't be published in the IndyStar.
"It just felt like it was a long way down," Hefley, 38, told IndyStar Friday. He's back home in Greenwood now, nursing bruises and a bloody nose but thankful to be alive.
Hefley, a machinist, and his wife, Jamie, were vacationing and visiting friends in Florida when he decided to help a buddy install a tile floor in at a condominium in Panama City Beach.
They'd finished the job and went out onto the balcony. There was a lot of stooping and bending. The work was hard on his back, so Hefley leaned on the railing to stretch.
It felt good, he said, until he leaned a little too far.
"Next thing you know, my feet had come up over my head."
Hefley went over the side. He remembered his nose hitting the balcony deck.
Frantically, he tried to grab something to catch himself. It was no use.
As his body plunged past the balcony railing on the floor below, Hefley said he reached and pushed himself as far as he could away from the building.
He knew there was a swimming pool down below. He just needed to get past the concrete and land the water.
It worked, but the landing in 10 feet of water was still hard.
"Next thing I know I hit the water," Hefler said.
Hefler swam to the edge, pulled himself out and collapsed alongside the pool.
He said he screamed a little bit. A security guard approached and asked where he came from.
"I pointed up there," Hefley said.
Jamie Hefley, who was in the condominium and watched her husband go over the balcony, looked down in shock.
An ambulance took Hefley to the hospital, where he was treated for bruises and a bloody nose. The Hefleys cut their vacation short and drove home on Wednesday. Mark said he wanted to spend time with his four children, ages 17, 10, 8 and 5.
"I'm actually afraid of heights. That's the weird thing," Hefley said. "I'm even more afraid now."