The man who walked between the towers

03 octubre 2007

On august 7, 1974, a young French artist called Philippe Petit extended a high wire between the not-yet-completed twin towers of the World Trade Center and crossed without a net. It was 7:15 a.m. A woman coming from the subway was the first to see him: 'Look, someone walking on a wire between the towers.' In a few minutes, a hundred policemen were sourrounding the building, watching that man over the clouds.

For almost 45 minutes, Petit kept dancing on the wire. "I observed the tightrope 'dancer' - reported the Police chief to the television - He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again... Everybody was spellbound in the watching of it".

Everytime the Police asked Petit to get off the high wire, he turned around and went into the middle. Finally, he was persuaded by police officers to give himself up after he was warned that a police helicopter would come to pick him off the wire. Petit was worried that the wind from the helicopter would knock him off the wire, so he decided it was time to give up.

Petit was charged for his stunt but he became a kind of hero for the new yorkers. The court just "sentenced" him to perform a high-wire act for children in New York's Central Park.

Twenty-seven years later, in the morning of september 11, 2001, Petit was near Woodstock, N.Y., when he received a phone call from a friend who told him the towers had been attacked. "It pulled out my inwards”- he explained.

In 2006, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, The New Yorker magazine cover represented a tightrope walker over the empty sky. After all, Petit's figure had became a kind of symbol of the tragedy. Even today, his silouette remains like a phantom over Manhattan, a strange vision of the past, the times when new yorkers still looked at the sky without feeling a sharp pain in their hearts.

* Phillipe Petit's story has been immortalized in a children’s book called The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein, and in an animated short film directed by Michael Sporn, which you can see here.

More info and sources: 1, 2, 3, 4