It was estimated that over 60,000 people braved the downtown wind chill to witness history in the making. Daredevil Nik Wallenda shattered two world records after successfully walking over the Chicago River from Marina City Tower West to the Leo Burnett Building...and walking from Marina City Tower West over to Marina City Tower East both on a high-wire without a safety net or tether. The Discovery Channel captured every heart-pounding moment LIVE as Nik made the two-part walk in one of the windiest sections of Chicago at night. "It was such an incredible feeling to do this walk in Chicago", says Wallenda. "The city holds a special place in my heart, and I have dreamed about doing this ever since I was a kid. I also feel blessed to have this opportunity and would like to thank everyone in the city of Chicago, along with the Discovery Channel for trusting my abilities".
Press from all around the world were in place at the Renaissance Hotel's 3rd floor media center. Photographers and television cameras were positioned on the hotel's 3rd floor outdoor terrace. Our positioning wasn't the best because we were quite a distance away and we were under Nik shooting upwards, but we had to make the best of it. But before the actual walk, I attended a press conference two days earlier at the Dana Hotel where media were able to ask questions of Nik and later have one-on-time with him. As a photographer, it was great for me to photograph a living legend as Nik hails from the most famous high-wire family act in history...The Wallendas. Nik is a 7th generation member of the Wallenda family. And if you follow their history, you'll know that Nik's Great Grandfather Karl Wallenda fell to his death back in March of 1978 during a high-wire walk on a windy day in San Juan, Puerto Rico. During the press conference Nik stated that whoever did his Great Grandfather's (tethering) did a bad job because you could see the wire shaking beneath him. But in June of 2011, Nik went back to that site in Puerto Rico where Karl Wallenda died, and walked at the same time with his Mother and completed the 135-foot long high-wire walk. Nik stated that his kids are also well trained on the wire, but have no desire to join the "family business". Because his family is very important to him, Nik stated that if his kids or his wife Erendira asked him to stop walking, without hesitation he would quit. "My family means more to me than any walk ever could", Wallenda stated. Nik dedicated this day's walk to his legendary, late Great Grandfather.
Before I made my way over to the media center, I stopped along Wacker Drive to take pictures of Marina City Towers and the Leo Burnett Building before police started blocking off the streets. The atmosphere was pure excitement as other photographers and passersby were out doing the same thing! Many were looking up at the buildings and talking amongst each other trying to imagine how Nik was gonna pull this off. But after all the streets were blocked off, and the police were in place to secure the parameters, the flood lights began to light up the buildings and the high-wire. It's time! As darkness filled the sky and the wind whipped through our shooting area, all eyes were focused atop Marina City Towers. When Nik walked out on the wire to test the wind, loud roars could be heard below on East and West Wacker Drive because everyone was ready to see Nik do his thing! But wait...it was only a "test". So about an hour later, it was indeed show time! Nik Wallenda stepped into the darkness of downtown Chicago and proceeded to walk onto the high-wire to begin his trek over the Chicago River to the Leo Burnett Building roof. The crowd was cheering so loud, you thought you were at a Chicago Bears game. Well maybe not, but everyone was there to cheer Nik on. For the first of the two-part walk, Nik crossed more than two city blocks uphill at a 15 degree angle of approximately 8 floors. This was the steepest walk he's ever attempted, and the highest skyscraper crossing in the history of the famed Wallenda family. And he did it in Chi-town! For the second part of the walk, Nik walked blindfolded from Marina City Tower West to Marina City Tower East...making this the first time he's ever attempted such a feat. This was also the very first time Nik attempted back-to-back high-wire walks. And again, he chose to do it in Chi-town! Nik Wallenda earned two world records for his Chicago high-wire walks...one for the steepest incline and another for the highest walk while blindfolded. This gave Nike 10 world records...including the 2013 tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon.
After this exciting event, there was an after-walk press conference in the ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel. The room was jam-packed with television cameras, writers and photographers...as everyone awaited the arrival of Nik Wallenda. As I sat in my fourth row-aisle seat, there was a small commotion at the back of the room. To the excitement of the news crews and photographers, Nik entered the press conference the same way he completed his second walk...blindfolded! And as he was led up the aisle to the front of the podium, wouldn't you know it...he fell on me! Yep, sure did! The famous daredevil Nik Wallenda fell on me...photographer Raymond Boyd. That just made my day!