September 11, 2001.
At 8:46am it would have been possible to rig a wire from One World Trade to Two World Trade.
At 8:47am it would not have been.
The picture above portrays a plane flying past the World Trade Center at the exact moment a man fulfills his destiny, the irony is overwhelming.
This picture was taken 26 years prior to September 11, 2001 and it is a chilling harbinger of the events to come. The year was 1974, when Philippe Petit decided to unite the Twin Towers with an expression of human willpower. He strung a wire from the top of the two towers and walked across.
Philippe’s destiny was determined as the Towers where being dreamt of by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect. Two completely different men. One in pursuit of reaching the heavens and one in pursuit of connecting them.
So as Minoru’s destiny moves him to building the Twin Towers, another destiny conspires to destroy them; Osama Bin Laden.
As if the grandiose of the Twin Towers could only attract the most grandiose of people, the super-egos and the iconoclasts; with ambitions that eclipse life itself.
Philippe remarked, as he took his first step, that he felt death was very near. Yet he had no choice but to step forward. It is saddening, the accuracy of his insight on that day; not to realize that 26 years later, 200 people would stare down the exact same view and make the same decision to step forward, without a wire. They also felt death was near.
We don’t see these life altering events often; the unimaginable. We rarely see events that cause us to blink an eye. A man jumps from 120,000 feet or rides a 100 foot ocean wave, and it generates barely a pulse of interest.
Yet, within the same square footage on a block in south Manhattan we experience not one but two, once in a life time events. Why?
The Twin Towers stood tall, equally impressive and equally individual. Although they stood equally tall they opposed each other. As if they represented two different ideologies. Yet both were brought down simultaneously. Both ideologies suffered at the same time.
The only solution to the eternal struggle of mankind is to realize that we can only succeed together. “United we stand, divided we fall”
Any issue can be represented by the Twin Towers. politics, gun control , abortion, immigration, gay, straight, right or wrong… Imagine the Twin Towers whenever you face opposing view points, and then imagine the destruction of both.
Philippe connected the two towers with his journey across the chasm and when his walk was complete both towers were symbolically stronger.
Philippe united the world with a fragile string and an unwavering ambition to cross a chasm.
When faced with the 1000ft chasm that separated him from his goal, he used a bow and arrow and launched his string 300ft to the other side. His string grew to a rope and then a wire and eventually the bond was strong enough to connect the opposing forces.
We should all strive to make those connections, to be the force that brings opposing forces together.
The wire is fragile yet the whole world wants to see its strength. The world yearns for a man walking across a wire, connecting two opposing forces.
We desperately need more events like Phillipe’s, events that unite us as a people. Our world consists of a never-ending deluge of negativity; events that are beyond imagination, beyond comprehension.
The human race needs to gravitate to the moments in life that can be sewn together; marriage, children, love. Find instances in your own life that are diametrically opposed and be the attraction that forms a unified weld.
Like the man on the wire we continue to march forward, unaware of the plane on its collision course with our lives.
We march forward because we are driven by our destinies, our ambitions. Some of us tip-toe forward with caution and some move forward with reckless abandonment, toying with the fragility of the wire.
Society tests our limitations, inches to the left or inches to the right, what cause can move us off our path.
Yet we inch forward towards our future.
The wire also represents how fragile life is and the constant reminder that it can be over in the blink of an eye.
Like the falling men and women below; they wished to live for one more minute. Value every minute as if it were your last. Not a living person on this planet can share their thoughts in those final moments. It is a place only those who have made the decision can share. It is not a suicide decision; it is a decision to live.
We all move forward towards our goals. Minoru, Bin Laden & Philippe. And as our goals are fulfilled another’s goals are only beginning to be imagined.
Live your life as if you were walking on a high wire and in your final moments, leap forward with the confidence and pride that you have lived life well.
Authors note: For a long time I have imagined the desperation of the individuals that were forced to jump and it always reduces me to tears. I have found some comfort in attempting to place myself in those shoes, and perhaps naively, hoping that my final leap would be a peaceful moment. I think of all of you that jumped that day often and can only hope that peace has found you. Ian