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A tribute to the WTC towers and one dream they inspired
on 27 June 2004
On an otherwise normal day in August 1974, a young Frenchman pulled off what may be the most impressive (not to mention foolhardy) wire-walking exhibition in history. New York City's early commuters looked up to the almost-completed World Trade Center towers to see a man, experienced aerialist Phillippe Petit, walking back and forth across them on a wire. This amazing (albeit highly illegal) achievement has now been immortalized in impressive ink and oil paintings in Mordicai Gerstein in The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Among the artwork you will find the ingenious use of two foldout illustrations, each one establishing an amazing change in perspective of Petit's wire-walking feat and making the drama of the event all that more palpable. Published in 2003 and the recipient of The Caldecott Medal, this book is sure to captivate many young minds with its story and artistry (with a sense of vertigo thrown in absolutely free of charge), and it does stand as something of a touching reminder of the two towers that fell on September 11, 2001 and the spell they cast in their own silent yet mighty fortitude.
Alongside the artwork is the story, economically told, of Petit's dream and the manner in which he made it come true. It describes how he and some friends dressed up as construction workers, hid out on both towers until nightfall, and got the wire-walking cable (which was a mere seven-eighths of an inch wide) in place, after which Petit walked, ran, danced, and even lay down on the outstretched wire over the course of nearly an hour. He was then, of course, arrested but, to my surprise, ordered only to perform his feats for the children of New York City. This is a fabulous story that will literally take your breath away, especially if you are as afraid of heights as I am, but I can't get over just how dangerous and illegal this was (to his friends as well as himself) and can only wonder how Petit got off so easily.