"If I see three oranges, I have to juggle. And if I see two towers, I have to walk" - Philippe Petit, juggler/funambulist

Philippe Petit is a funambulist who has performed some of the most astonishing walks on the tightrope. His most remarkable achievement was on August 7, 1974 when he clandestinely traversed a cable across the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center. The slightest misstep, or an unfortunate gust of wind and Philippe would have ended up 1300 feet (400 m.) lower: there were no safety lines to catch his fall.

Those who have been on the roof of the twin towers and have stared down the 110 floors of the towers can imagine what a frightening stunt this must have been. However Petit did not consider this a stunt, but rather an act of human poetry. Petit is an artist who expresses himself with an exercise that requires a sheer unimaginable amount of concentration and dedication.

There's no risk involved. When I put my first foot onto the wire, I need to be sure there will be the last step"

Petit spent nine years of dreaming about his walk. It took eight months to prepare his stunt with the aid of an accomplice, the photographer Jean-Louis Blondeau. Around 1974, the twin towers were nearing their completion. Dressed as construction workers, film-makers or journalist, the two made several exploratory forays into the buildings. They spent many days hiding equipment in the buildings and on the roofs. The biggest problem was to get a rope across. Their solution was to shoot a thin nylon fishing line across with a crossbow, pull across a rope, and finally a steel cable. The weight of the cable almost dragged one of the men off one of the towers, but finally the cable was tightened to two posts with 2 500 pounds force.

At 7:15 AM, Petit stepped onto the rope wearing a pair of handmade buffalo skin slippers. He quickly drew a crowd of pedestrians, who saw Petit and his pole seemingly suspended in mid-air: from their vantage point the rope was invisible. Petit was on the rope for 45 minutes. The wind blew hard, but the artist wasn't really bothered by this: he was dancing on the wire, and made no less than 7 crossings. At one point, Petit even lay down on the wire, got back on his feet and resumed the walk.

The walk across the twin towers was not his first remarkable traverse, and certainly not his last: in 1971, Petit made headlines in France when he illegally walked the tightrope between the two towers of the Notre Dame in Paris. In 1973 he walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, again illegally. In 1989, Petit was invited for the bicentennial celebration of the French Revolution, and on this occasion he walked the rope from the Trocadéro to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. He has also walked between the cathedral in Frankfurt and a nearby church, and he has conducted a "peace walk" between the Jewish and Arab sectors of Jerusalem.

Petit has been arrested many times for his high-wire poetry, but never for long: his actions create the highest respect and admiration from spectators. After his 1974 crossing of the twin towers, the police arrested him for trespassing and disturbing the public order. His sentence was a demonstration walk in Central Park. Petit's actions played an important role in the public acceptance of the World Trade Center when the project was nearing its completion. Up to that point, many New Yorkers in favor of the old Empire State Building resented the new towers.

Petit currently lives in upstate New York, but his office remains in the city at a rather unconventional location: the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, some 60 feet above the nave. Now in his fifties, Petit is still active as a funambulist, and his most daring act is still to come: crossing the Grand Canyon at 1600 feet (490 m.) above the Little Colorado River.

With respect to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Petit believes very strongly that the twin towers should be resurrected in their original state. They should be a tribute to the original buildings. And if they are, Philippe Petit will once again walk the high-wire.

"If they are rebuilt, I will dance across again. I will dance across and people will look at the sky and they will believe again that mountains can move. They can move, you know. I have seen it."

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