(Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)
High wire artist Nik Wallenda constantly prayed to Jesus as he walked without a harness on a 1,400-foot long high-wire across a 1,500-foot tall gorge near the Grand Canyon on Sunday, successfully completing the death-defying feat that was broadcast live on the Discovery Channel.
"Thank you Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God," The Associated Press quoted Wallenda as saying as he had reached halfway through the tightrope. He had no safety tether attaching him to his line at a height taller than the Empire State Building, and was facing sudden wind gusts of over 20 mph.
Discovery chose to broadcast the event with a 10-second delay, not wanting to take a chance as even one wrong step could have proven fatal for Wallenda.
Wallenda murmured prayers to Jesus almost constantly along the way, and completed the walk in 22 minutes and 54 seconds.
"It took every bit of me to stay focused that entire time," Wallenda, 34, said, according to Reuters. "My arms are aching like you wouldn't believe."
He had to stop and crouch down twice due to the wind for the first time, and later the cable picked up an unsettling rhythm. But it "was a dream come true," he said. "This is what my family has done for 200 years, so it's part of my legacy."
The "#Skywire" hashtag received more than 700,000 tweets on Twitter.
Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, tweeted just before the feat, saying, "Here at the Grand Canyon with my friend @NikWallenda. Praying for his success!" After the event, he tweeted again. "Congrats to @NikWallenda for making history. Your courage and faith is inspiring."
Pop music singer Keith Urban also tweeted, "GO NIK WALLENDA!!! Absolutely astounding feat AND faith!!!! We were with you every single step!!!! –KU."
Golfer Paul Azinger said on Twitter, "@NikWallenda Wow! You are physically smart and a mental giant." National Football League player JJ Watt said, "Really didn't think I would be this locked in. It's captivating."
The U.S. government did not allow the use of the Grand Canyon proper for the event. Therefore, Wallenda walked above a stretch of the Little Colorado River Gorge on Navajo Nation land, which was equally dangerous.
Wallenda, a married father of three, last summer became the first man in history to walk 1,800 feet on a tightrope across the roaring Niagara Falls from the U.S. to the Canadian side of the falls. Soon thereafter he announced his desire to cross the Grand Canyon.
He is the seventh generation of the legendary Great Wallendas and began walking the wire at age 4. His great-grandfather Karl Wallenda fell off a wire to his death in 1978.
In his memoir, Balance: A Story of Faith, Family, and Life on the Line, the high wire artist writes, "I believe that God gives us the power to transform any story from darkness to light."
Wallenda had earlier told The Christian Post, "I visualize myself crossing the Canyon over and over again. I visualize myself making that first step, quarter of a way, half way, three quarters of a way and then finishing that walk. That's really a lot of the mental prep."
He said he often talks to God while he is on the wire. "I find that peaceful and relaxing and He's the only one up there listening to me." He added that his faith plays a crucial role in what he does. "My life is based on my faith. I guess the biggest role that it plays is that if I do fall and die I know where I'm going."