An artist of the air re-creates his six-year plot to pull off an act of incomparable beauty and imagination
One late-summer day, a feat of unimaginable audacity was perpetrated on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The year was 1974. A hundred thousand people gathered on the ground to watch in awe as twenty-four-year-old high wire artist Philippe Petit made eight crossings between the all-but-completed towers, a quarter mile above the earth, over the course of nearly an hour.
Petit's achievement made headlines around the world. Yet few who saw or heard about it realized that it was the fulfillment of a dream he had nurtured for six years, rekindling it each time it was in danger of expiring. His accomplices were a motley crew of foreigners and Americans, who under Petit's direction had conpired, connived, labored, argued, rehearsed, and improvised to make possible an act of unsurpassed aerial artistry.
In this visually and verbally stunning book, Petit tells for the first time the dramatic story of this history-making walk, from conception and clandestine planning to the performance and its aftermath. The account draws on Petit's journals, which capture everything from his budgets to his strategies for rigging a high wire in the dead of night between two of the most secure towers in the world. It is animated by photographs taken by two of Petit's collaborators, and by his own wonderfully evocative sketches and unquenchable humor.
On the morning of August 7, 1974 having already illegally rigged and walked steel cables between the towers of Notre Dame in Paris and Australia's Sydney Harbor Bridge French funambulist Petit illegally rigged 200 feet of 7/8" steel cable between the two World Trade Center towers and walked between them repeatedly, lying down at one point and making eight crossings in all. This incredible feat resulted from six years of obsessive planning and problem-solving, meticulously documented in this engrossing, truly exhilarating account of how he pulled it off. Petit has penned four previous books in French regaling his various exploits, and here establishes an elegantly energetic and quirkily poetic English as he tells of secretly (and benignly) casing the World Trade Center, assembling his team of helpers for the enormously complicated (and improvised) rigging job, getting the heavy cable and rigging tools to the roof, running the wire across in the dead of night (via an arrow shot between the towers!), and tightening the cable: "Even in the midst of the hardest rigging job or most demanding clandestine adventure, I never fail to pause and admire the moment when tension brings my cable to what I consider its most seductive shape. Then I pause and smile back." The way in which the walk itself stopped traffic and galvanized the city is captured in Petit's descriptions and the 140 b&w photos (including Petit's notebook sketches), a most fitting remembrance of the World Trade Center as a piece of New York social architecture. The spirit behind Petit's form of trespass undertaken with enormous care, to the point of wrapping the rigging in carpet so it would not damage the towers acts directly against the violation of the city's structures and the murder of its people.