Philip Petit won! Or the documentary that is about his tightrope walk between the towers of the World Trade Center, the now-gone Twin Towers. Tight rope walking, just after Thoreau died, at the turn of the century, was a national obsession, according to a book I read and enjoyed by Ginger Strand.
Strand goes from being dismissive of the stunts the falls inspire to being appreciative of their meaning. Blondin, né Jean-François Gravelet, the famous aerialist who high-wired back and forth to Canada in 1859 and 1860, becomes for Strand emblematic of the national balancing act for a nation that was on the verge of civil war — Niagara was a last stop on the Underground Railroad. Blondin tightroped in shackles, which confused Strand at first. “But imagine magician David Copperfield putting on a show somewhere in the desert along the Mexican border. Imagine he gets Regis and Kelly to come and tape segments of the show in which he builds a wall and makes someone disappear on one side of the wall and reappear on the other.” In 1905, W. E. B. Du Bois and Mary Talbert convened a group of African-American intellectuals on the American side of the falls and, after being denied a hotel room, crossed into Canada, where they began the Niagara Movement, which eventually became the N.A.A.C.P.
Once, Petit was quoted in Newsweek as saying: "I never fall," he says, "but, yes, I have landed on the earth many, many times." This is very Thoreau. Petit rules!
A live news report here.
(Photo above, of Petit's signature on Trade Tower, by Brian Rose.)