Airs Above The Ground - August 7,
1974 was one of those foggy New York mornings, heavy with mist that
spread slick dampness over every surface. Not rain. But certainly not
clear. And worth your life or your limb if you took just the wrong step
at the wrong time.
It made you wonder, as you squinted up at
the tiny figure dancing across the thread of wire strung between the
North and South Towers of the World Trade Center -- how a man could even
contemplate the stunt, much less execute it.
As a Public Affairs staffer subbing at
the Information Desk that summer, I fielded telephone inquiries from
press and other media all across the country. As word spread about the
wild stunt taking place 1,350 feet above plaza and street, people asked
the same questions we had: San Francisco morning radio hosts wanted to
know -- who was this daredevil (Philippe Petit, we would later learn),
Wichita news, New Orleans radio, Richmond media staff -- everyone asked:
Did he have help? (most assuredly -- just not from us), Had the PA
arranged for it or participated in it? (heavens, no! No one rational and
in charge would have sought such outrageous publicity)? How did he get
up there (Well, with construction on the South Tower wrapping up, there
were still hoards of hard-hatted steel workers everywhere (who would
distinguish one more?)? Would he be arrested? Yes, when he returned to
the safety of solid ground (No one was capable of or willing to venture
out there after him).
Later, when he was in custody, having
fulfilled his dream, he spoke openly about this stunt being a years-long
goal of his. He told us much, well satisfied with the achievement that
put himself and, briefly, the P.A. into the front pages of the news. But
it was an "unusual" day in the agency's history for certain.
To judge the colossal nature of Philippe
Petit's escapade, go to You Tube to search out the 2015 movie, "The
Walk." It will likely awe and astonish you. It did me, and I was there