We All Fall; How Many Can Get Back Up Again
Since 1922 Karl Wallenda along with his brothers put together a circus act that focused on trapeze tricks and high wire walking without a net, the circumstances of which was sort of an accident in itself. At the Madison Square Garden premier of the Wallendas their safety net did not arrive in New York by showtime and of course, the show went on anyway.
The crowd mesmerized by the danger gave the Wallenda's, working without a net a rousing ten minute standing ovation. That happened in 1928 in New York and again last night in New York when his grandchildren completed a spectacular high wire stunt twenty-five stories above the streets of Times Square.
The Wallenda's went on to pioneer ever dangerous higher skill acts, such as the record setting seven-person chair pyramid. The Wallenda's since 1928 have always worked without a net.
Several members of the family and their associates have been injured, paralyzed and killed while performing. It's a dangerous business.
Fifty years after that first MSG performance, Karl Wallenda was killed in a fall from between the towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in Puerto Rico from just over 100 feet. He was 73. The walk was later completed by grandson Nik Wallenda and his mother Delilah in 2011.
The Wallenda's finish what they start, which means going back up there again. In each of our lives we've all failed and fallen off of something. Whether it be dreams, jobs, bucket list items, relationships or what-have-you we've all fallen. How many of us have had the courage to get back up again and face the backlash of our faults?
Two years ago, in a rehearsal of the of the pyramid stunt, but with eight people in chairs balanced on a wire something went wrong. The stunt would have made the Guinness Book of World Records, the fall broke all the bones in the face of Lijana (Lee-hana) Wallenda, and shattered her heel and ankle from thirty feet.
For Lijana Wallenda last nights performance wasn't the usual thrilling high-wire act. Even more incredible was the display of the woman's courage in taking that first step. Her ankle was still hurting, a soreness she attributed to walking around New York too much on the ground seeing some sights. The accident devastated her physically and even moreso mentally. Post traumatic stress from the fall almost crippled her as much as the broken body parts.
Much of the program focused on her comeback, clips of an interview following her fall were shown, her leg in a cast and her jaw wired shut she answered questions sounding a bit like Kirk Douglas. Then more video clips show her shakily stepping onto a training wire a few feet above the ground at the Wallenda home and training complex. One could feel her anxiety even at stepladder height.
The plan for last night was for her and her brother Nik to walk on a quarter-mile long wire, toward each other and for her to sit down on the wire 250 feet up, while brother Nik crossed over her, then each would continue on.
Before the walk, Nik was unsure whether she'd take that first step. I am nervous, I'll tell you the truth Lijana said. And at the outset she tarried, fidgeting with her grip and connections on the balance pole. She was twenty-five stories above an estimated live crowd of 200,000 gathered in Times Square.
It was twice as high and further than she'd ever walked before.
She took that first step, the viewer could feel her anxiety through the screen. She could be heard singing hymns softly to herself, praying outloud. The two walkers were wired to each other via headsets and brother Nik could be heard lovingly reassuring her every step of the way. She felt as though she were moving too slowly, take your time, at your own pace her brother assured her.
Sure enough, Nik reached the center a few minutes before her, and stopped to wait, balancing, the consummate showman waving to the crowd below. Then they were face to face, she sat down on the wire and for a moment while Nik passed over her, she had to be completely un-tethered from the safety line. (a New York City permit requirement) for an agonizing half a minute she sat like that in the wind on the wire while he crossed over her and re-hooked her.
Anyone who has worked in the plants, or has had anything to do with high-angle rescues knows that even if they'd slipped, hanging on a tether at that height could prove as fatal as simply falling would have, but in a much slower motion.
Then again, still sitting on the wire she began to fumble again with the hooks on her balance pole, this is when the tears started rolling down my cheeks. I was proud, worried, anxious and cheering all at the same time. She still had to successfully stand up and finish the stunt to reach the end of the line. She did it!
Lijana Wallenda confronted the worst of her fears, pain and death and stepped onto the finish line a reborn confident person who won the night.
I've been a fan of the family for a while. Saw Nik cross Niagara Falls, walk between buildings and mountain gorges with no net or tether, as other locales didn't insist like NYC did they have one.
But last nights performance will stick with me from now on, today I salute Lijana Wallenda, strong, independent, courageous.
What are your fears, what holds you back? Be Bold. Take that first step, get back in the saddle and ride again. More than a circus stunt, that's what last nights performance was all about.