Daredevil Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk on a tightrope across the Niagara Falls, taking steady, measured steps Friday night for 1,800 feet across the mist-fogged brink of the roaring falls separating the U.S. and Canada. Afterward, he said he accomplished the feat through "a lot of praying, that's for sure. But, you know, it's all about the concentration, the focus, and the training." The seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas had long dreamed of pulling off the stunt, never before attempted. Other daredevils have wire-walked over the Niagara River but farther downstream and not since 1896.
"This is what dreams are made of, people," Wallenda said shortly after he began walking the wire.
He took steady, measured steps amid the rushing mist over the falls as an estimated crowd of 125,000 people on the Canadian side and 4,000 on the American side watched. Along the way, he calmly prayed aloud.
ABC televised the walk and insisted Wallenda use a tether to keep him from falling in the river. Wallenda said he agreed because he wasn't willing to lose the chance and needed ABC's sponsorship to help offset some of the $1.3 million cost of the spectacle.
About a dozen other tightrope artists have crossed the Niagara Gorge downstream, dating to Jean Francois Gravelet, aka The Great Blondin, in 1859. But no one had walked directly over the falls, and authorities hadn't allowed any tightrope acts in the area since 1896. It took Wallenda two years to persuade U.S. and Canadian authorities to allow it, and many civic leaders hoped to use the publicity to jumpstart the region's struggling economy, particularly on the U.S. side of the falls. A festive crowd gathered on both sides of the border to watch Wallenda, spreading blankets and setting up folding chairs under picture-perfect blue skies and summer-like temperatures.