The eternal gift
I was 2 year old when Philippe Petit walked in the sky between the Twin Towers.
Only now I understand the importance and the beauty of his “coup”.
I really think that it was the greatest act of art ever, at least the most generous,
he risked his life (and a big sanction) to give us the an eternal present: there are no walls too high or borders too deep.
On Wednesday, 7 August 1974, shortly after 7:15 a.m., Petit stepped off the South Tower and onto his 3/4″ 6×19 IWRC steel cable. He walked the wire for 45 minutes, making eight crossings between the towers, a quarter mile above the sidewalks of Manhattan. In addition to walking, he sat on the wire, gave knee salutes and, while lying on the wire, spoke with a gull circling above his head.
As soon as Petit was observed by witnesses on the ground, the Port Authority Police Department dispatched officers to take him into custody. One of the officers, Sgt. Charles Daniels, later reported 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.
Petit was warned by his friend on the South Tower that a police helicopter would come to pick him off the wire unless he got off. Rain had begun to fall, and Petit decided he had taken enough risks, so he decided to give himself up to the police waiting for him on the South Tower. He was arrested once he stepped off the wire. Provoked by his taunting behaviour while on the wire, police handcuffed him behind his back and roughly pushed him down a flight of stairs. This he later described as the most dangerous part of the stunt. His audacious high-wire performance made headlines around the world. When asked why he did the stunt, Petit would say, “When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.”