entertainment

‘Flying Wallendas’ Make History By Walking 25 Stories Over Times Square On High Wire

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

Siblings Nik and Lijana Wallenda just made history by crossing New York’s Times Square on a tightrope!

Thousands of spectators gathered in Times Square to watch a feat that no one has ever achieved before. Nik and Lijana Wallenda, both seventh-generation members of the famous “Flying Wallendas” circus family, walked toward each other on a cable wire that’s less than an inch thick.

It was an especially scary stunt for Lijana, who hasn’t performed since getting seriously injured in a 30-foot fall in 2017.

Before the walk, Nik was nervous about his sister, he told ABC, per CNN.

Lijana was worried about her brother because he was worried about her. She was also nervous because, hello, they were 25 stories above the ground.

“I’ve got this,” she said at the time. “I’ve got this.”

Both Nik and Lijana successfully completed the walk to uproarious applause from below. The entire tightrope walk was captured by ABC in a live broadcast.

Nik, 40, and Lijana, 42, are from a long line of stunt performers. They are seventh-generation Flying Wallendas.

Nik holds a range of world records, including the longest tightrope crossing by bicycle. He has also done things like crossing a gorge over the Grand Canyon and making his way across Niagara Falls (on a high wire, of course).

Nik’s sister, Lijana, has also participated in legendary feats. Unfortunately, she fell during a stunt in 2017, and she suffered extensive injuries that required reconstruction surgery for her face.

That’s what makes their most recent stunt all the more triumphant.

Lijana and Nik successfully became the first people to cross all 1,300 feet of New York’s Times Square on a tightrope, 25 stories above the ground.

On Sunday night, Nik and Lijana walked toward each other from opposite ends of the square. They balanced on a cable just 3/4 inch thick. (In order to stay safe, the city required that the siblings wear harnesses.)

The siblings were able to communicate with each other — as well as their father — the whole time. Meanwhile, the world watched live via an ABC broadcast.

Lijana and Nik chatted, and Lijana sang at times.

“This has been my life, longer than I’ve been alive,” Nik said at one point.

This was Lijana’s first time performing since her 2017 injury. Viewers were entranced, yet nervous for both of the siblings.

“It all seems kind of scary because I don’t want him to fall,” onlooker Lindsey Bernosky told the New York Times.

About 17 minutes into the walk, the two siblings met in the middle of the wire. It was an emotional moment for both of them.

“It was hard to hold it together,” Nik admitted.

To trade places and continue on the high wire, Lijana sat down and Nik carefully stepped over her.

Lijana struggled briefly when she realized that she’d rehooked her pole wrong, but she wasn’t worried, she says.

“I was calm about it — I was like, ‘I got this,'” she told the Times. She and Nik both went on to finish walking the rest of the wire.

“Maybe the biggest surprise was that the wire was as stable as it was,” Nik said.

He added that it was impossible to prepare for the billboards and high-rise buildings.

“How do you duplicate Times Square and the distractions?” he pointed out.

And while it would make many people nervous to have such a huge crowd of spectators below, Nik says it actually helped them.

“We’re entertainers — we live for that,” he said.

The Wallenda family has been performing stunts since the late 1700s in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Their great-grandfather brought the family to the US from Germany to perform for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

For Nik, this Times Square stunt was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of “paying homage” to his family’s performance at Madison Square Garden in 1928, he told ABC.

Congratulations to both Nik and Lijana for such an incredible feat!