Friday, August 7, 2009
August 7, 1974: Philippe Petit walks a tightrope between the twin towers
On this day, August 7th, in the year 1974, a Frenchman by the name of Philippe Petit made history by illegally suspending a wire between the twin towers. For about 45 minutes, Petit entertained the crowds below by walking back and forth and performing minor tricks such as knee salutes. Spectators described him as dancing across the wire. Petit and his companions spent three months planning this spectacle and made over 200 trips to the towers to set it up. They posed as construction workers, even going so far as to make fake passes and uniforms in order to store and set up their equipment. Petit, who was 24 at the time, had previously pulled off similar stunts between the spires of Notre Dame in 1971 and the towers of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in 1973. As he described it: "If I see three oranges, I have to juggle. And if I see two towers, I have to walk." He was booked with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing but later the charges were dropped. His only punishment was to perform a show for the children of New York to which he happily obliged performing yet another tightrope show above Belvedere Lake in Central Park. His spontaneous performance between the newly constructed towers delighted those who saw it causing a minor traffic jam as people stopped to watch. When he was handcuffed and taken away, the crowds booed the police officers and cheered Petit. This event has been credited with helping the towers to gain favor among city dwellers who had previously bemoaned them as unattractive additions to their skyline.
Sam Jinishian, EVHP Staff