In the early planning stages of his walk on a wire between the World Trade Center towers 44 years ago, aerialist Philippe Petit and his co-conspirators took to calling the twin skyscrapers "his towers."
It began during his meticulous planning process as he visited the roof of both buildings, often under the guise of a journalist or a construction worker. There, he grew obsessively familiar with the structures.
"I would call them 'my towers' because I was — day and night — learning from them and getting information and blueprints and articles to get to know the towers," Petit, 69, told InsideEdition.com last month at New York's Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.
Known as "le coup" to Petit and his friends, the daredevil famously walked between the World Trade Center towers eight times on the morning of Aug. 7, 1974, after successfully stringing a wire between the structures.
"I would visit them for eight months in New York, measuring things secretly, taking ... quickly some pictures [of] where to attach the cable, how to pass the cable across. So after all those years and months of studying them for my illegal walk, of course they were ‘my towers’ and that’s how my friends would refer to them."
But that all changed on a clear and sunny morning in 2001, when the World Trade Center was destroyed in a heinous act of terrorism that left New York City — and the world — shaken.
Petit, who didn’t have a television at his upstate New York home, was unaware of what was happening in the city on Sept. 11, 2001 until friends alerted him to the grim news.
"Philippe, your towers are being destroyed!" he said he was told.
It was clear to the Frenchman that the events unfolding in lower Manhattan were a deliberate act.
"I looked at the sky because I knew there was a plane involved and it was a magnificent day and I knew — my intuition was this is not an airplane accident — it was something else," he said. “So I ran to my friends at the top of the hill and I sat in front of the television like millions of other people and I saw my towers being attacked and destroyed and taking with them thousands of lives.
“So [I decided] from that day I will stop saying 'my towers' — I will say 'our towers.'"
Now that those towers are gone, Petit said he’s often asked how it felt to see them collapse. It’s a query to which he won’t respond.
“How can I answer that question when on the other side of that event you have thousands of lives that were lost?" He said. "You cannot compare losing a marvel of architecture and losing human lives."