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The Faith of Daredevil Nik Wallenda
The Man Who Walked Across Niagara Falls

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No One Is an Island

Back in June, Nik Wallenda became the first man to walk right over Niagara Falls and while he walked across, he thanked God and Jesus out loud in his microphone.

That Friday night Nik Wallenda became the first man to walk right over Niagara Falls Friday night, a 30-minute tightrope televised live on ABC News. Wallenda told reporters it took "a lot of praying, that's for sure. But, you know, it's all about the concentration, the focus, and the training."

The King of the Wire puts his faith in the King of Kings.

Moments before strapping on the harness, the daredevil joined hands in riverside prayer with wife Erindera — an eighth-generation wire walker herself; Nik proposed on a wire — and their three children Yanni, 14, Amadeus, 11 and Evita, 9. Prayer comes easily to Nik, a born-again Christian, who thanked God and Jesus out loud — and through his microphone to the world — for much of his 25-minute feat. The cross Wallenda wears around his neck every time he walks on a wire isn’t just a fashion statement, it's a message about the religious beliefs the American performer holds close to his heart.

"I grew up in a born-again Christian family. A Bible-believing, God-fearing family. That's the way I was raised and I find comfort and peace in that," he said.

The historic event was broadcast live by ABC to an audience reaching 13.3 million Americans, garnering the highest rating for a non-sports broadcast of any network in six years.

The heart-pounding event took two years of strategic planning which included geological surveys, engineering feats and political lobbying of U.S. and Canadian officials to change laws in both countries that, for the past 116 years, banned daredevil stunts at Niagara Falls.

Prior to the ban, other wire walkers had crossed the Niagara River including one who lost his life, but no one until Nik Wallenda had ever attempted to cross Horseshoe Falls, 200 feet up and 1550 feet across, where the raging waters rush downward at more than 600,000 gallons per second.

After battling wind swells and dangerously thick mist, Wallenda completed his walk in just 25 minutes during which viewers could hear his repetition of prayers. In one truly electrifying moment as he approached the Canadian side on the wire he paused, then bowed to the crowd on bended knee raising a victory fist to acknowledge over 120,000 cheering fans who had waited for him in the rain. Wallenda then sprinted to safe ground and after embracing his wife and family, he was approached by Canadian customs agents who asked him for his passport.

"What is the purpose of your trip sir?" the agent asked. "To inspire people around the world to follow their dreams and never give up," Wallenda said, turning over the passport he carried with him in a waterproof bag Nik Wallenda is the seventh generation of Great Wallendas who trace their roots back to the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1780. For Nik, every walk is an expression of honor to his great grandfather, the legendary Karl Wallenda who brought the Wallendas to America for The Greatest Show on Earth. During the depression era, his crowning achievement was the seven-person chair pyramid: four men standing on a wire as two pairs with two more men standing on their shoulder bars holding a woman sitting, then standing on a chair at the top of the pyramid.

Nik Wallenda was "performing" on a high wire before he was born; his mother, Delilah Wallenda, was still walking the high wire six months pregnant with him. Nik's official first performance was in 1981 at age 2 as a tiny clown carried around in a pillow case. He also began walking the wire that same year but was not permitted to perform professionally on a high wire until age 13. In 2001, he set his first world record in Kurashiki, Japan for the 4 layer 8 person pyramid on a high wire.

Up next, Nik Wallenda is in the advanced planning stages of a death-defying wire walk across the Grand Canyon (with permits already secured.) In the meantime, he continues performing daredevil stunts around the world, without any safety devices, on the high wire, the "wheel of death," hanging by his jaw from a helicopter and more.

Oh, and the cross Wallenda wears around his neck every time he walks on a wire? It isn't just a fashion statement; it's a message about the religious beliefs the American performer holds close to his heart.