Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Man On Wire

When the French tightrope-walking Philippe Petit broke through security in the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974, it was to create an act of rebellion, and of beauty. Although extremely self-focused (and what artist- and I put myself in this category- isn't really?) he had a band of friends and acquaintances who helped him to pull off the unimaginable task of stringing a heavy tightrope wire across the two towers and securing it so that he could walk across or "dance" as a police officer later described it in awe.

I thought I would come away from the documentary about this event, "Man on Wire," inspired to create, but Petit's change after his success soured me a bit. What struck me, however, besides his drive to want to tightrope walk a quarter of a mile off the ground with no safety net, was the story of the World Trade Center's birth.
Petit knew he wanted to walk across the towers before they were even built.

It almost feels like a sacrilege to admit this, but before 9/11 I had no fondness for the towers. Yes, I knew they were tall, but aside from that I hadn't give them much thought. But to hear the story from Petit and his friends and to see the early footage of the buildings, I felt that I was part of the historic erecting of the towers. One scene, hauntingly familiar to the ground zero footage, was of the very beginning of the building. I suddenly missed the towers as if they were old friends.

Trying to digest the movie afterwards, part of me wondered, as if critiquing my own personal essay, "What was the point of the story?"
This was the same question everyone asked Petit after his tightrope walk- "Why did you do it? What was the point?"

He thought this was an amusingly American point of view.

There was no point, he just felt he had to do it.

That I could identify with.

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