There are amazing feats, and then there are jaw-dropping, once-in-a-lifetime accomplishments that confirm mankind's remarkable physical and imaginative potential. Philippe Petit can lay claim to having pulled off one of the latter, as in the summer of 1974, the French tightrope walker did something no one had ever done before or will ever do again: he navigated, on foot, a single wire stretched between the World Trade Center's two towers.

As a kid, Petit was an incorrigible climber, and upon seeing a newspaper article that included a diagram of the as-yet-uncompleted Twin Towers, he immediately told himself that one day, he would cross the gulf between the enormous skyscrapers. That he had no formal wirewalk training and had never been to the United States didn't matter, nor did the nightmarish logistical hurdles that would obviously stand in his way. A dream was born, or rather something of an audacious obsession, leading him to hone his craft first through intense training sessions, then by traversing wires attached to the peaks of Notre Dame and Australia's Sydney Harbour Bridge, and finally by concocting an elaborate plot to infiltrate the still-under-construction WTC and pull off his unparalleled deed.