In the early morning light of August 7, 1974, an almost unbelievable thing happened in the skies above lower Manhattan.
One hundred and ten stories above the streets far below, 24-year-old Frenchman Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire secretly pulled between the twin towers of the World Trade Center and for 45 minutes, as police raged and pedestrians looked on dumbfounded, danced in the sky.
Now, of course, the towers are gone — since 9/11, just a memory above Ground Zero.
That absence has changed the context and meaning of Petit’s story. But in a way, that brings only more mystery and awe to it.
This Hour, On Point: Philippe Petit and a new documentary about his legendary New York performance, “Man on Wire.”
Joining us from Shokan, New York, is Philippe Petit, world renowned wire-walker. In his youth, he planned and executed a number of daring, unsanctioned wire walks — between the towers of Notre Dame in Paris, off the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia, and between the 110-story World Trade Center towers. Now 58, he continues to perform and lecture and write. His 2002 book “To Reach the Clouds” is a memoir of his World Trade Center experience.
And joining us from New York City is James Marsh, director of the new documentary “Man on Wire.” It won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for World Documentary at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott calls it “thorough, understated and altogether enthralling.” It has just opened in New York, and will be hitting theaters across the country over the next month.
This program aired on July 28, 2008.