August 7 ~  When I See Two Towers Sometime Lofty Towers

"When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk." ~ Philippe Petit

Philippe Petit

On this day in 1974, at a few minutes past 7 a.m., Frenchman Philippe Petit (1949-) extended a high wire between the not-yet-completed twin towers of the World Trade Center and crossed without a net.

He planned six years for this moment.

"A crossing," Petit described. "The pilgrimage of a mortal and a mortal pilgrimage. A mythological journey."

Gracefully, he moved back and forth along the 140-foot gap. Balancing pole clutched, at one point he paused to sit down "to survey the scene."

"I could hear the horns of the cars below me," he recalled. "I could hear the applause, too. The rumeur (clamor) or the crowd rose up to me from 400 meters below. No other show person has ever heard a sound like that."

Young Petit, slender and dressed in black, was suspended in midair walking the wire for 45 minutes. Then the rain fell, prodding him to end his dance with a passionate run, what he called "the laughter of the wire walker"--into the arms of the New York police.

Petit's punishment? The aerialist agreed to give a free performance in Central Park the following weekend.

Nearly 30 years later, Petit grieved deeply for the catastrophe of 9/11. In his heart, the towers still stand. "It was my pride as a poet and a lover of beautiful things to show as many people as possible the audacity of those impossible monoliths."

"In a very small way I helped frame (the towers) with glory," he said. "and I want to remember them in their glory."

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