Do you know of a Frenchman called Philippe Petit? This man is, amongst many things, a funambulist - a tight wire walker. Fiercely independent from the earliest age this great man spent a childhood learning the arts of climbing, juggling, pickpocketing, magic, horseriding and many other things. He writes about this in his book - To Reach the Clouds.
Everyone should read this book. I have read many books indeed, and I can say this must be the most extraordinary book I have ever read. He writes about a dream whose onset came at a dentist's waiting room. A magazine and an article about the World Trade Centre. Then he feigned a sneeze to cloak the sound of a paper tear as he whips the photo of the twin tours out of the magazine. The start of an extraordinary mission.
It took Philippe six years of planning, trial and error - and then he and his team performed an act of artistic genius, and artistic criminality. At the start of day on the Seventh of August 1974, when citizens of New York scurried to their place of work, they would look up into the heavens. And there they had their gift. This nomad walking through the heavens.
A wire rigged between the two towers of the World Trade Centre. Two massive columns of steel, granite and glass rising to a height of over 1300 feet, they are now joined by a thin cable masterfully rigged by Philippe and his team. They used firstly, a bow and arrow to fire fishing line from one tower to the other. They use the fishing line to pass thicker fishing line, then nylon, then rope which finally brings over the walking wire. What an amazing achievement just to have done this alone. To have infiltrated the tower's security system that even had a police station on site. To have worked out how to lug that 450 pound steel cable to the top of the buildings, undetected. To have cracked the engineering challenge of how to right the wire correctly so it would not snap due to the towers' inbuilt swaying motions in the wind but also be taught enough to hold the man crossing the wire. All this alone is incredible.
And then the artist performs his show for the crowds of New York, unaided by any safety devices whatsoever and balanced by the beam in his hands and the gods in his feet.
For fourty five minutes Philippe, half bird, half man, bought New York to a stand still with the ultimate high tight walk performance. As he himself writes
"Victorious, I linger at the very middle of the crossing, exactly where the void, now defeated, used to vent its might.
I even sit down and survey the scene.
I rejoice at witnessing the disorder created by the announcement of my aerial escapade. The anthill is in turmoil!! Voices and sirens scream orders and counterorders on the roofs and in the streets, but I hear mostly the streets, where the voice of the crowd overcomes that of the emergency units."