When Philippe Petit finished his illicit walk across the wire he strung between the Twin Towers in 1974, a reporter asked the 24-year-old French street performer why he did it. "There is no why," he replied. "When I see a beautiful place to put my wire I cannot resist."

That was 44 years ago today, August 7th, and the event has since been captured in both a documentary, and feature film.

When we interviewed Petit in 2008 (a couple of years before he taught us how to walk on a wire in Williamsburg), he told us he had no fear crossing the 140-feet long cable, which was 1,300+ feet above the streets of Manhattan—instead, he said, he felt "immense elation."

He first had the idea for the walk when he was 18-years-old—"I saw an article about those towers," he told us. "There was a photo of a model, and the article said that they would be built one day, and they would be the finest in the world. And here I was, a completely new self-taught wire walker, and I thought, 'What a fabulous thing to transform the top of those towers to a theater for one morning.' And that's how the idea came."

The reality of it, however, hit him hard when he got to New York. In the Man On Wire doc, he recalls, "The minute I got out of the subway, climbing the steps, looking at them, I knew that they were no dream. I knew that my dream was destroyed instantly... Impossible, impossible, impossible. It’s clearly impossible, not only to walk across... But to bring almost like a ton of equipment, secretly, to rig a wire for hours, to guideline it. It’s clearly out of human scale, but something in me pulls me toward touching it."

In the end, Petit pulled it off—Annie Allix, Petit's former girlfriend, said, "What excited him most about this adventure, aside from being a beautiful show, was that it was like a bank robbery, and that pleased him enormously." Petit was arrested after the walk, but the charges were dropped when he agreed to do a performance for kids in Central Park.