NEW YORK — Christian highwire artist Nik Wallenda and his sister, Lijana, conquered fear with faith to successfully walk about a quarter mile 25 stories above street level in Times Square on Sunday night.
The inspiring comeback for the siblings of the Flying Wallendas circus family comes just over two years after a rehearsal for a dramatic eight-person pyramid in Sarasota, Florida, went horribly wrong and five of the eight highwire artists, including Lijana, went crashing more than 20 feet, breaking every bone in her face.
Nik told The Christian Post in an interview just days before the walk that he had struggled with fear after the accident but declared that he would pray as always with close friends and family, then just walk by faith on Sunday.
In a dramatic performance on Sunday, he and Lijana kept that faith in the limelight for viewers watching the event on television with a family prayer led by Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.
“Congratulations to @nikwallenda and @LijanaWallenda for completing an incredible tightrope walk across Times Square! A true testament to their faith and determination to accomplish the dream God put in their hearts and to carry on their family’s legacy,” Osteen tweeted shortly after the siblings completed the nail-biting walk between 1 Times Square at the south end at 42nd Street and 2 Times Square just north of the TKTS booth at 47th Street.
For those watching the spectacle from the ground, however, they just hoped for the best. Emergency workers and other security officials who had blocked traffic along the stretch also watched but were prepared for the worst.
Nik finished his walk on the highwire well before Lijana, then quickly went to wait for his sister at the end of 47th Street where they received cheers from the crowd. As it appeared the walk was taking a bit more time for Lijana than it did for her brother, many began cheering her on as some recalled the 2017 accident. Everyone appeared relieved and amazed as she finished the feat.
Lijana said she sang hymns and praised God as she gingerly made her way toward the finish line amid the bright lights and the roaring crowd. She was also constantly talking with her brother and was assured by the presence of their father in the control room. They both also wore safety harnesses which comforted many parents who had come to watch the show with their children in the Square.
Nik said in an interview after the walk that when he met his sister in the middle of the wire and briefly removed her harness so he could pass over her, “It was hard to hold it together.”
All the while, said Nik, 40, he was thinking about his sister, 42.
"I was more concerned for Lijana," he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” hours after the walk. "I went up the evening before and realized that it wasn't going to be as easy as I thought, so not only thinking about myself, but what the guys needed to do in coaching them on how to grab [Lijana] when she needed to get off."
Lijana said she was a bit nervous at the start of the walk but settled down shortly after she started by reminding herself that she trained for it and it’s something she can do.
"I'd say about the first 20 feet I was a little shaky in the legs," she said. "But then it really becomes home; I remember this is what I love. This is what I've done my whole life and it truly becomes home. It's sort of peaceful."
She added: "Of course you get butterflies and [feel] a little sick in the stomach. But then I remember all the training and how hard I worked, and you have to fall back on that. I knew my ability. I knew I could do it."