Man completed feat 40 years ago, and plans to do it again

Philippe Petit
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Man completed feat 40 years ago, and plans to do it again
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 07: Port Authority police officers escort Philippe Petit (right) and his assistant Jean Heck (left), from Beekman Hospital. Petit was arrested after he walked a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 29: Philippe Petit goes on what amounts to one of the safest walks ever taken at night in Central Park as he negotiates a 600-foot-long cable strung over Belvedere Lake. The diminutive French daredevil uses a 35-pound balancing pole, as crowd of 10,000 watches from lake's shoreline. Petit, who on Aug. 7, took a stroll between 1,350-foot towers of the World Trade Center, climbed up the cable to a point 80 feet up the tower of Belvedere Castle. (Photo by Dan Cronin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)


Forty years ago today, a French magician named Philippe Petit stunned an enthralled audience as he pranced on a wire tied between New York City's Twin Towers. The fearless 24 year-old high-wire artist declined even the faintest safety precautions of a harness or net when he sashayed across the 130-foot gap between the buildings, balancing on a one-inch thick steel cable illegally strung at a height of 110-stories.

Petit had been inspired to attempt the feat after seeing a photo of the Twin Towers in a magazine in a seemingly ordinary dentist's office, according to MSNBC. Petit spent the next six years of his life planning for the dangerous act.

He never received formal approval for his walk, instead relying on the help of friends to secretly string a 65 yard-long cable between the buildings, according to Long Island's Newsday. Then on that fateful morning in 1974, he tip-toed onto the cable and bounced 110 stories high in the air for 40 minutes. Below, pedestrians paused their days to tilt their heads upward in amazement.

Afterwards, Petit was arrested, jailed and taken for a psychological evaluation before he was finally released, but not in vain. The stunt transformed the Frenchman into an international celebrity and aesthetic hero -- leading New York City to drop formal charges.

Decades later, his story was retold in the 2008 Academy Award-winning documentary, "Man on a Wire," that detailed his crime and the challenges he overcame to accomplish perhaps the most graceful crime of the century.

To commemorate the anniversary of the performance, Petit plans to reconstruct the walk in a less dangerous setting as a benefit for LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York, using the same equipment from four decades ago.

Petit talked to Newsday ahead of his anniversary performance.

"Every year I see that it's going to be the anniversary ... but they are years that are not very interesting: 17, 21," said Petit. "But 40 is a great number, and because I am still here, still doing my art, I must be on the wire that day."

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