A death-defying balancing act remembered
Forty years ago on Aug. 7, 1974, magician and wire walker Philippe Petit left a crowd of thousands breathless as he traversed a wire strung between the Twin Towers. Eschewing a safety harness or a net, the 24-year-old walked and danced across the 130-foot gap between the towers, balanced on a one-inch thick steel cable strung at a height of 110-stories.
In later accounts, Petit traced his inspiration for the performance back to the first time he saw a photo of the Twin Towers. He was at a dentist’s office with a toothache when he came across the image in a magazine. The 18-year-old ripped the photo out and left the office. He spent the next six years planning for the death-defying act.
Petit eventually enlisted the help of friends who spent all night secretly stringing the cable between the buildings. That morning, he first stepped onto the wire at just past 7 and then spent the next 40 minutes frolicking high in the air. Onlookers stopped on the New York City streets far below, staring up in awe.
Sporting a huge grin, he was arrested immediately after coming off the wire. The stunt turned him into an international celebrity and folk hero. The outpouring of public support led New York City to drop all formal charges.
“There is no why,” Petit said of his reasoning for stunt. A 2008 Academy Award-winning documentary, “Man on a Wire,” recounted the incident.
In celebration of the performance’s fortieth anniversary, Petit will recreate the high-wire act using the same equipment from 1974 for a benefit event at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, N.Y.