After 14 years, it’s getting harder to remember what the skyline in Lower Manhattan looked like before it was mutilated. The one person who will never forget the presence of the Twin Towers is Philippe Petit. On August 6, 1974, he and several friends snuck up to the top of both the North and South Towers in a mission that had been planned for months, and on the morning of the 7th, Petit walked between the towers. They carried with them Petit’s wire-walking supplies, his balancing pole, and a 400-pound reel of cable that would take them hours to shoot on a crossbow and secure between the towers.
Why? As Petit puts it in his lilting Parisian accent, “There is no why….When I see a beautiful place to put my wire, I cannot resist.” The story of the wire walk is so fantastic that it reads like a fabulist’s dream. Even the cop who arrested Petit seems aglow with the magic of the day.
Mordicai Gerstein’s marvelous children’s book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, is the perfect way to learn about Petit’s walk. Director Robert Zemeckis read the book a few years ago and visualized a movie that could re-create the morning when a young man did the impossible, 110 stories above the ground. The new movie, The Walk, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, will first appear in 3-D on September 30. For those made nauseous by 3-D, the normal view appears on October 9.