45 Years Since Philippe Petit's High-Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers

In this black-and-white historical photo, Philippe Petit holds a long pole as he does a hire-wire walk between the Twin Towers. The buildings of lower Manhattan can be seen below him.
Philippe Petit's high-wire walk between the Twin Towers. AP Photo/Alan Welner.

Today marks the 45th anniversary of Philippe Petit's 131-foot hire-wire walk between the Twin Towers. The 24-year-old French high-wire artist took his position at 1,350 feet above ground on the edge of the South Tower during the early morning hours of Aug. 7, 1974.

Six years prior, Petit had started planning “le coup,” which is what he called the unauthorized performance in the sky. He spent the ensuing years learning everything he could about the buildings and their construction. “If I see two towers, I have to walk,” said Petit. “Anything that is giant and manmade strikes me in an awesome way and calls me.”

Petit didn’t just walk; he performed for the crowd of thousands that gathered as he walked back and forth for 45 minutes, laid down, saluted the sky and waved hello to birds in flight—all without the protection of a net. Called the “artistic crime of the century,” Petit was arrested after his performance, but the charges were dropped in exchange of a free kids show in Central Park.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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