A Name Worth Remembering: Phillipe Petit

Petit walks between the towers - Aug. 7, 1974

 A Note From The Administrators: This is the first in what will be a weekly post about men that we think you should know about. If you like what you read make sure to check out the links below and also make sure to come back next week for another installment.

Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.

Theodore Roosevelt-

Phillipe Petit has not, to my knowledge, ever saved anyone’s life, cured a disease, improved the state of any economy, or performed any feat which will see him sainted, martyred, or elected to high office. He did, however, really and truly amaze cynical, skeptical me. As chronicled in the Oscar winning documentary Man on Wire, Petit illegally and incredibly strung a steel cable between the World Trade Center and walked back and forth several times, as authorities in helicopters circled and onlookers gawked from the ground. The feat resulted from years of practice, and its inception actually predates the towers’ completion.

As a metaphor for life, it doesn’t get much better than Man on Wire. Petit’s ebullience is contagious. He treated walking between the towers as a six year-old might a particularly long stretch of monkey bars: something to conquer, not because anyone else demanded it, but because the challenge had presented itself and begged for a taker. As adults, we often resign ourselves to the crushing idea that impossibility is everywhere, that despite our youthful dreams, most of what we think of as too difficult or remote to accomplish probably is. When someone confronts impossibility and actually beats it, we have to sit up and take notice. I’ll save you the complete rundown of everything Petit did and how he pulled it off as a way of encouraging you to dig a little yourself. Get a much fuller picture by reading any of the pieces linked below, and see Man on Wire as soon as you can.

Man on Wire – the film’s homepage, complete with trailer.

Man on Wire‘s IMDB Page – for outside reviews, synopsis, cast information, etc.

from PBS’ American Experience series – a brief interview and profile.

Petit on The Colbert Report

The walk itself (August 7, 1974) – Youtube clip of the walk (to whet your appetite; no substitute for Man on Wire)

Fluke Skywalker” – an interview from Psychology Today profiling Petit’s compulsion to walk on wires.

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3 Comments on “A Name Worth Remembering: Phillipe Petit”

  1. Jump
    May 2, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    Becca and I watched this movie. I was amazed to the point of drooling. She was angry that somebody would work so hard on something that benefited nobody. I confess there are nobler endeavors, but that didn’t keep me from being impressed.

    • joshacorman
      May 2, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

      Nobler? Sure. More awesome? Nope. The cool thing is that he didn’t seek endorsements or a performance fee or televise the whole thing. He just wanted to do it.

      Sent from my iPhone


  1. A Name Worth Remembering: Arthur Guinness | thethingaboutflying - May 9, 2012

    […] we explained last week when Corman introduced us to Phillipe Petit, each Wednesday we hope to introduced you to a man that we just think you should, for one reason or […]

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