Philippe Petit

Listen to the track 'Mr. Petit' from the Headgear album 'Flight Cases' (Click control once to activate and use)
"When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk".

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Shortly after 7:15 on the morning of August 7th, 1974, having hesitated briefly because of a strong breeze, 24-year-old Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire he and some friends had attached a quarter of a mile above the Earth between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center.

Petit first received the inspiration for his unimaginable walk after coming across a magazine article while he sat in his dentist's office in Paris. Over the next six years Petit collected articles on the towers and made several trips to New York to make first hand observations of the incomplete towers and to gain a sense of what kind of equipment he would need for the walk. To gain access to the restricted area Petit and his accomplices made fake identification cards and claimed to be electrical contractors installing electrified fencing on the roof. He once pretended to be from a French Architecture magazine wanting to interview the workers on the roof. The Port Authority allowed Petit to conduct the interviews.

Petit’s preparation was meticulous. He noted the clothes that construction workers wore, what kinds of tools they carried, and what the businessmen dressed like so that he would blend in with them when he tried to enter the buildings. He also noted what time the workers arrived and left, so he could figure out when he would have access to the roof.

Petit and his crew were able to ride in a freight elevator to the 104th floor with their equipment the day before the stunt, and were able to store this equipment just nineteen steps from the roof. In order to pass the cable across the gap, Petit and his crew decided to use a crossbow. They first shot across a fishing line, and then passed larger and larger ropes across the gap until they were able to pass the 450 pound cable across. Guy lines were used to stabilize the cable and keep the swaying of the wire to a minimum. For the first time in the history of the Twin Towers, they were connected.

In an event that lasted about 75 minutes, with the aid of 26 foot long, 55 pound balancing pole and without a safety net or harness, Philippe Petit made eight crossings, walking, jumping, dancing, even laying down on the 450 pound wire that stretched across the 131 foot gap between the still unfinished towers.

"Seemingly, I'm crazy - a suicidal maniac. But you have to enter my world. I work for days, months and years to prepare. My safety net is much stronger than anything else in the world -- it's my preparation,"

Port Authority Police Department Sgt. Charles Daniels, who was dispatched to the roof to bring Petit down, later described his experience:

"I observed the tightrope 'dancer' - because you couldn't call him a 'walker' - approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire... And when he got to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle... He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again... Unbelievable really.... Everybody was spellbound in the watching of it".

He was finally 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. He was arrested once he stepped off the wire however the worldwide news coverage and public appreciation of Petit's stunt resulted in all formal charges relating to his walk being dropped. The court did however "sentence" Petit to perform a high-wire act for children in New York's Central Park. Petit was also presented with a lifetime pass to the Twin Towers' Observation Deck by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.