Man on Wire

I saw the documentary “Man on Wire” (2008) about the exploits of Philippe Petit back in the early 1970s, in particular his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers on August 7, 1974, as captured above. The film uses a combination of new footage (interviews with Petit and many of his helpers, along with a reconstruction of some of the preparation actions in getting the equipment set up on the towers overnight) and some great contemporary footage of the planning phases and some of his earlier walks.

We had moved to New Jersey not long before this event, and I remember the coverage when it happened. I also remember going up to the observation deck in one of the towers at some point afterwards. While I’m normally not too spooked by heights, I was this time, and it seemed to me that it was because of the presence of the other tower so close by, yet separated by the nearly unimaginable gulf. Petit seemed to find that gulf the exact thing that made him obsess over doing this walk. He claims that he first began to dream of doing it after seeing a graphic back in the late sixties showing the outline of the towers, before they were even built.

His dream and obsession with the idea of crossing a high gulf is made clear by footage of two earlier walks he had done, one between the towers of Notre Dame in Paris, and then another done on the towers of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia. The amount of preparation for the Twin Towers walk was pretty incredible – months of study of the buildings, the comings and goings of people, the mechanics of setting up the rigging. One can’t help but also think of other plotters, who have twisted dreams of destruction and death, but this story is a great reminder of dreams that amaze and inspire.

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  • Jim  On December 15, 2008 at 10:12 am

    I’ve been waiting for this guy to lose his balance since 12/4!

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