Philippe Petit’s High-Wire Walk Between the Towers

High-wire walker Philippe Petit balances on a wire between the Twin Towers in this black-and-white photo from 1974.
High-wire walker Philippe Petit crosses between the Twin Towers, August 7, 1974. AP Photo Alan Welner

During the early morning hours of August 7, 1974, French high-wire artist Philippe Petit took his position at 1,350 feet above ground in the South Tower. High above the streets of New York, Petit began the 131 feet walk between the Twin Towers with no net.

At the age of 18, Petit started planning "le coup," what he called the unauthorized performance in the sky. He spent the next six years learning everything he could about the buildings and their construction. He said, "If I see two towers, I have to walk." Petit didn’t just walk, he performed for the crowd that gathered for one hour walking back and forth, laying down, saluting the sky and said hello to the birds. Called the "artistic crime of the century," Petit was arrested but chargers were dropped in exchange of a free kids show in Central Park. The 9/11 Memorial Museum tells the story of Philippe Petit’s walk in the historical exhibition. Located within the original footprint of the North Tower, the exhibition space tells the story of 9/11 using artifacts, images, first-person testimony and archival audio and video recordings.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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