Daredevil walks on wire between two skyscrapers Nik Wallenda walks across the Chicago skyline blindfolded (AP photos for Discovery Communications)
Daredevil walks on wire between two skyscrapers
Lexile

Nik Wallenda wowed Chicago and the world Sunday with two hair-raising skyscraper crossings on high wires without a safety net or a harness, and performing one crossing blindfolded.

"I feel incredible," Wallenda told reporters after completing the tightrope walks.

Recalling what made him nervous during his aerial performances, he said strong winds and the steeper-than-expected angle of the first high wire caused him to hurry his performance. Wallenda had practiced at a 15-degree angle but said the wire was actually at 19 degrees.

"That cable looked like it was going straight up," he said.

Thousands of cheering fans packed the streets around the city's Marina City towers to watch the 35-year-old heir to the Flying Wallendas' family business complete the back-to-back walks.

"I love Chicago and Chicago definitely loves me," said Wallenda as he walked the wire, with the crowd below him screaming in support. "What an amazing roar!"

Wearing a bright red jacket, Wallenda tested the tension of the first wire. It took him about six and a half minutes to walk the 454 foot stretch from the Marina City west tower to the top of a building on the other side of the river. The tightrope began at 588 feet from the ground and ended at 671 feet.

The next stage of Wallenda's high-wire event he undertook blindfolded, a 94-foot walk 543 feet from the ground between the two Marina City towers. At a fast clip, he made the stretch in little more than a minute.

As he stepped from the wire, he tore off his blindfold, waved, and the crowd erupted in cheers.

The Discovery Channel used a 10-second delay for the broadcast, which would have allowed producers to cut away if anything went wrong. Chicago city officials ignored a state law requiring safety nets for aerial acts higher than 20 feet, saying the law wasn't intended for "elite" performers.

Journalists covering Sunday's event signed waivers relinquishing their right to claim emotional distress if they witnessed a catastrophe.

Two of his previous televised tightrope walks, over the brink of Niagara Falls in 2012, and across the Little Colorado River Gorge in 2013, drew about 13 million viewers each.

Just minutes before the anticipated start of his high-wire feat, Wallenda, who lives in Florida, said the chilly conditions in Chicago would not stall him.

"Yes there's some wind, yes it's cool, but it's not unbearable," he said. Just two days earlier, the city had been beset with gusty winds, snow, hail and driving rain.

Months of preparations have meant helicopters lifting cable to the rooftops, road closures and clearances from the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Coast Guard. Residents of Marina City were asked not to use laser pointers, camera flashes or drones that could interfere. Even grilling was prohibited.

Cynthia Garner traveled 90 miles from Belvidere, Illinois, with her husband Johnny to watch the event.

"It was amazing. I saw it with my own eyes," Garner said afterward. "I was afraid when he first started, but once I saw that he didn't hesitate and just walked, I wasn't scared for him no more."

A year before Wallenda was born, his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda fell to his death during a tightrope stunt in Puerto Rico. He was 73.

What's next? Wallenda has said he wants to recreate a 1,200-foot-long high-wire walk made famous by his great-grandfather. The stunt at Tallulah Falls Gorge in Georgia included two headstands on the high wire.

Critical thinking challenge: Why did Nik wear a red jacket?

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COMMENTS (48)
  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    11/04/2014 - 12:31 p.m.

    I think that this Nik guy must have been literally crazy to even think about trying to attempt this. Also, the fact that his grandfather had previously died, is weird that he would try.

  • elliotja-Fre
    11/04/2014 - 12:53 p.m.

    Wow I cant believe he can do that. That seems really hard to do and he was blindfolded. I wish the length was longer and be more exciting like the Niagara fall one. It was still a big accomplishment. I was watching it on tv and I think it could of been on one of the main channels. Nik you're amazing.

  • Bellap-Fre
    11/04/2014 - 12:54 p.m.

    If I was him, I definitely would be completely scared out of my mind. He is a very talented man that he can actually walk across from one skyscraper to the next without any net or something holding onto him tightly. Nik truly is an amazing man. If I was him I'd never have enough guts to do anything like that.

  • Bellap-Fre
    11/04/2014 - 12:55 p.m.

    If I was him, I definitely would be completely scared out of my mind. He is a very talented man that he can actually walk across from one skyscraper to the next without any net or something holding onto him tightly. Nik truly is an amazing man. If I was him I'd never have enough guts to do anything like that.

  • Connorba-Fre
    11/04/2014 - 12:56 p.m.

    This is so amazing i would have never done this. To do this you are going to have to very brave and confident that you can do that. I don't think that he should try to do what his great-grandfather did because his grandfather must have been more experienced then Nik so this could mean the end for Nik like his grandfather.

  • Bryannecu-Fre
    11/04/2014 - 12:56 p.m.

    According to the text, a man walked between two skyscrapers in Chicago. This man was not only walking between two skyscrapers, but doing it at a 19 degree angle and on top of that he was blindfolded. This might sound outrageous but Nik Wallenda also has already walked across the Grand Canyon. This article said that he had walked across the tightrope with a safety net or being hooked on. I had heard that he had been hooked on so that he wouldn't fall into traffic. I think this guy is crazy. Nik Wallenda is a really courageous and brave man for doing this. I bet he had practiced for a long time though.

  • Hannahch-Fre
    11/04/2014 - 12:57 p.m.

    According to the passage, Nik Wallenda walked the Chicago skyline blindfolded. I think that is super scary, I would not be able to do that. It would of been really bad because if he fell, he probably would of died and that was everything at risk. I actually watched this on TV and actually Nik said he wanted to do the same thing in New York, but the cheif of police said no. I think if I was the police I would say no because if he fell i would be really disappointed, and so would everyone else.

  • Amandaoc-Fre
    11/04/2014 - 12:58 p.m.

    Wow, Nik is amazing. I could never do what Nik does for a living. I would just be to scared. He is so brave. I think Nik wore a a red jacket because he wanted the crowd below to be able to see. Also maybe if there was an accident the officials could be able to see him easily to come and help Nik. I can't wait to see what Nik has in store for us when he makes another dangerous walk on a wire.

  • Alexh-Fre
    11/04/2014 - 01:00 p.m.

    I don't exactly know why Nik wore the red jacket but I think it was so people could see him. He was so high in the air that, if he wore a dull jacket, then no one would see him. I watched this event on TV and I thought it was amazing. I didn't think he could do but he did. I know he's done this stuff before but, it still has to be scary every time he does it. Who wouldn't be scared? I know I would be scared because for one I'm afraid of heights and two I wouldn't be able to do it without any harnesses or nets because I would fall and die. I would like to do this but I don't think I would be able to do it.

  • Micaelaia-Fre
    11/04/2014 - 01:00 p.m.

    Would you balance on a rope between two skyscraper? I know i wouldn't! But, Nik Wallenda did this event a few days ago. Nik did this challenge blind folded without any harnesses or nets. I believe that Nik was a real stunt devil for going out there and doing it blindfolded. Especially, in the weather conditions he did the challenge in!

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