On August 7th, 1974—that's forty years ago today—a 24-year-old Frenchman named Philippe Petit snuck into the World Trade Center, made his way to the top, and walked across a wire cable about 140-feet long, which was strung between the Twin Towers. New Yorkers watched from below, as he performed the stunt which took him 6 years to plan. Even though his performance was illegal, charges were dropped, and Petit was merely sentenced to entertaining kids in Central Park! Here's a news report from that day:

When we interviewed Petit in 2008, around the time the documentary Man On Wire was released, we asked him about being on that wire:

Do you remember one particular moment from that 45 minutes more prominently than any other?

Well, yes and no. Of course the very first step, as you can imagine, was a giant first step. But a few moments during those crossings I remember perfectly. But that first step was a giant moment for me: I was finally stepping in to my dream. So I remember that vividly. And at some point I stopped on the wire and I sat down, and I looked down all the way - a 1/4 mile to the empty plaza below - and I stopped and saw the crowd gathering around that plaza. Yes, I remember very well many, many moments in those 45 minutes.

Can you describe at all what you were feeling when you took that first step? Yeah, I was extremely happy after all those years of dreaming and months of working on it, that now the dream was reality. And I was very concentrated and focused, in an open way, listening to everything, so that if there was a threat of some kind I would feel it. It was very delicate, because I had not seen the anchor point on the other side. Usually when I walk on a wire I inspect the anchor point on both sides before crossing. So here, my friend did it on the other side with my instructions, but I had not seen it. So it was very difficult. But after just a few steps - as I could see later from pictures taken by my friend on the north tower - I had an immense smile on my face. So obviously it was only a few steps that were fragile and delicate.

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Petit didn't make it to the front page of the NY Times the following day (that honor was given to Nixon), but he did get a write-up on page 20, where it was reported that a policeman shouted: "Get off there or I'll come out and we'll both go down," during his walk.

The walk will also get the Hollywood treatment, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Robert Zemeckis working on a biopic. Will Gordon-Levitt have to learn to walk on a wire? In 2010, Petit taught us, and we can tell you it ain't easy.