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I was staring down the long, skinny wire, swinging in the wind. Going over in my head, making sure I set everything up, so I could give my best friend Philippe the ok. Philippe Petit is a French high wire artist known for dangerously high walks, and he just happened to be my best friend. You must be wondering who I am, my name is Raphael Martin. Nobody really knows who I am but every high wire walk Philippe does I was there helping him. When he walked the towers of Notre Dame in June of 1971, I was there.
Now we are here on the highest towers in the world and he is about to walk across on a wire. I double checked all of the riggings, then triple checked it. If anything was wrong and the wire broke and Philippe fell I wouldn’t be able to live with the guilt, and especially without my best friend. I looked across the wire and saw Philippe looking back at me. I grabbed the walkie-talkie and started thinking back to the beginning of the summer last year.
It was an extremely hot day on the part of France where I had been living at the time. It was the summer of 1966, the year the buildings started to be built. Philippe was only 17 years old at the time because he was born in 1949. I was in the living room watching the TV when my phone rang. I picked up the phone and within seconds Philippe was talking so fast I couldn’t hear him.
“Remember when I walked between the towers of the Notre Dame cathedral?” he shouted through the phone.
“Yes, of course, I remember I was on the other tower and helped you set the wire up,” I replied.
Philippe started talking again before I finished my sentence, “well I was in the city this morning, and walked by a newsstand and got the daily news.”
“Ya so?” I questioned him.
“So,” he ranted on again, “on the cover of the paper was the two towers of the world trade center in New York City it’ll be the tallest building in the world when it’s finished.”
I sighed and went on, “and let me guess. You want to put the wire up there and walk?”
“Well, yes,” he replied.
I responded, “but how are we gonna get up there, and past the security? And set up the whole wire without being caught?”
He knew the answer to this question, “The towers are almost finished building so we have to do it fast. I’m creating a group of my closest friends and allies. We are going to dress as construction workers and bring the stuff for the wire. We will say it is stuff for the antenna and go up to the top of the tower and set up the wire.”
I was still curious about one thing; the one flaw in his plan, “what about the tower that is finished. How will we get to the top of that tower.”
“I have a friend that works in the building who can get us up to the top,” he replied.
“Ok the plan sounds good,” I said.
“Ok, we leave the last day of summer on September, 22 and do the walk after the winter, which gives us time to make the plan flawless, and make sure everyone is on board,” he said before we finished the call.
“Alright, bye Philippe,” was the last thing I said to him that day.
“Bye,” he responded. The end of the summer came too quickly. Philippe, our four other friends, and I leave off on our flight to America. We landed on a rainy fall day. It was mist outside when we landed. I stepped off the plane and was surrounded by the sounds of the city. It was the first time I had ever been to America, and I didn’t know what to expect. Philippe’s friend, the one who works in the finished tower, picked us up from the airport. When we got back to the house we were staying at; we immediately went over the plan. Philippe must have gone over the plan with us at least a thousand times that winter. The tower was building very fast and the news was that it would finish this year in 1985. When we were sitting in the living room listening to the news on the radio and we heard this we were franked. Philippe changed the date; the deadline was one week away. It was the longest week of my life. The night before the day we were going to carry out the plan I didn’t get any sleep. I don’t think anyone did.
John and I were dropped off at the finished tower and made our way up to the top. It was about nine o’clock when we arrived at the top.
“Okay Raphael, I’m gonna stay inside and make sure no one comes up here,” Jeff told me.
“Alright, I’ll come get you when Philippe starts,” I replied. I was sitting on the roof for over an hour waiting to see Philippe and Louis, but they never showed. I was scared something had happened. That they had been caught. I was tempted to leave and see what happened. I heard the door to the roof start to open, I thought it was Jeff. Then I heard more than one voice talking and saw the police’s badge sign in the moonlight. It was the most scared I have ever been. My palms were sweating, I was uncomfortably tucked in the corner of two boxes, and the police were inches away from where I was hiding looking for me. I heard a large thump. The cops had gone! I got up from my hiding spot and sprinted to the ledge to see if Philippe was over there. He still wasn’t. I got past the point of nervousness and was about to give up when through the mist two dark figures appeared across the buildings. We were off schedule and had to act fast. Philippe had used a bow and arrow to shoot a piece of fishing line across, which was attached to a rope which we passed over, then a light wire, then the walking wire. Everything was set up. We went over everything and double checked the rigging, then tripled checked the rigging.
Suddenly I snapped back into the moment.
Philippe yelling through the walkie-talkie, “IS THE RIGGING OKAY! IS THE RIGGING OKAY!”
I realized he was talking and instantly replied, “yes, everything is good you can walk.” I saw through the light clouds, he put one foot on the wire and one on the building passing the pole evenly between his hands. A large cloud drifted between Philippe and me blocking my view for several seconds. The clouds cleared, and Philippe was in the middle of the wire. He made his way across the wire to my side.
“The show isn’t finished,” he calmly said to me and turned around and walked back. When he got back to the other side there were at least ten policemen on the roof one handcuffed Louis, but the show could not be completed with just two walks back and forth. He came back to my side, I was handcuffed, but he still wasn’t done.
“One more time,” I saw him mumble. He made his way to the middle of the wire. The wind was picking up. He was directly in the middle of the wire when a huge gust of wind came in. The wire shacked, Philippe shacked. He wobbled and got down on one knee. The whole crowd gasped. But Philippe was a performer, he made it look like part of the show and got back up.
When he came back to my side, I was yelling, “Philippe they’re crazy they are gonna cut the wire!” That’s when he realized the show was over and he got off the wire. We were brought down the towers by the police and greeted with a cheer from the large crowd in the street. Photographers rapidly taking pictures, reporters blurting out questions, and the crowd cheering. Several years later there were films made about Philippe. I didn’t play a large role in them in some I’m not even mentioned.