A heady, rushing account of the outrageous high-wire act performed by Petit, on August 7, 1974, between the World Trade Center towers.
Even Petit understood it to be a “mad project,” which was why, when he took to the cable he and his confederates had strung between the Twin Towers, he held much of the city in thrall for an hour as he coursed back and forth 110 stories high. In short chapters, written as though the words were on fire, Petit recounts all the planning—he had already done major illegal aerial walks between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral and on the world’s longest steel arch bridge, in Australia—and all the incredible logistical problems: the danger of the towers swaying in the wind and snapping the cable, the subterfuges necessary to gain access to the still uncompleted buildings for planning strategy. There are snafus and betrayals, wonderful strokes of luck, and some inside help. Most of all, there is Petit: arrogant, haughty, rebellious, and romantic, the grandiose funambulist (“Impossible, yes, so let’s get to work”), right up until the moment of “tuning my wire for the celestial symphony to follow.” For all his bluster and hyperbole—“The gods of the towers. Breathing, swaying. . . . Let me go. Let me pass. Let me arrive. Let me reach you”—it is impossible not to like Petit, epitome of the adventurer who makes his days count, cheating the Reaper, thumbing his nose at authority, inspiring and giving delight. Like George Mallory, he is asked, Why? “When I see three oranges I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk!” Johnny Carson calls, and Petit turns him down; Sweet ’n’ Low wants his endorsement, and he stares in disbelief. He keeps the act sacrosanct, a wild deed and a work of art, and he scredits those who helped make it happen.
As breath-stopping as the event itself. (140 drawings and photographs)