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Thursday, June 15, 2017

June 15, 2012

This week on the Throwback Thursday post, I'll admit that the length of time we're throwing back to is not very long ago.  However, I can say that at least it's an event that I witnessed along with millions of other people all over the world.

I'll get to that in a bit.  In the meantime, we're past the halfway point for the month of June.  Let's see what happened on this date in history.

1215 - King John of England puts his seal to the Magna Carta

1502 - On his fourth voyage, Christopher Columbus arrives on the island of Martinique

1667 - Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys administers the first human blood transfusion

1752 - Though the date has not really been confirmed, it is around this time that Benjamin Franklin concludes that lightning is electricity

1836 - Arkansas becomes the twenty-fifth state to join the United States

1844 - Charles Goodyear receives the patent for vulcanization - leading to the process that strengthens rubber

1846 - The Oregon Treaty establishes the 49th parallel as much of the official border between Canada and the United States

1864 - Arlington National Cemetery is established

1896 - The deadliest tsunami in Japan's history strikes; 22,000 lose their lives

1916 - Woodrow Wilson signs a bill incorporating the Boy Scouts of America

1920 - Sam the Record Man founder Sam Sniderman (d. 2012) is born in Toronto, Ontario

1921 - Bessie Coleman earns her pilot's license, making her the first female African-American pilot to accomplish this

1937 - Country singer Waylon Jennings (d. 2002) is born in Littlefield, Texas

1941 - Singer Harry Nilsson (d. 1994) is born in Brooklyn, New York

1944 - The Battle of Saipan takes place during World War II

1949 - Comedian/actor Jim Varney (d. 2000) is born in Lexington, Kentucky

1970 - The murder trial of Charles Manson begins

1978 - King Hussein of Jordan takes a bride - American born Lisa Halaby (who later becomes Queen Noor)

1984 - Composer and playwright Meredith Willson passes away at the age of 82

1985 - The Rembrandt painting "Danae" is vandalized by a mentally ill man, who throws acid on the canvas and stabs it twice - it would take over a decade for the painting to be restored

1996 - Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald passes away at the age of 79

2014 - Radio host and voice actor Casey Kasem dies at the age of 82

And the list of celebrities turning another year older are as follows; Nini Theilade, Richard Baker, Ruby Nash Garnett, Neal Adams, Muff Winwood, Noddy Holder, Simon Callow, Russell Hitchcock, Steve Walsh, Jim Belushi, Terri Gibbs, Polly Draper, Julie Hagerty, Wade Boggs, Eileen Davidson, Helen Hunt, Courteney Cox, Ice Cube, Leah Remini, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Imbruglia, and Nadine Coyle.  A very happy birthday to all of you!

And now it's time for the trip back through time.  Let's see what date we will be spotlighting this week...

...Oh...June 15, 2012.  That was only five years ago.  Is this thing broken?

Nope.  It's just one of those rare instances in which the Throwback Thursday post just happens to be from the same decade we are currently experiencing.  And for me to choose a topic that happened so recently, you know it had to be one that everybody was talking about.

I know I remember where I was when I heard of it.

It was the night of June 15, right around 10:15pm, and I remember the time well, as the television at home was tuned into ABC that night.  Normally it's a station that I very rarely watch (at least I haven't watched the network since "The Mole" was cancelled), but I was glued to the tube that night because I wanted to see history being made.

The event took place not too far from where I live.  I'm just a few hours drive away from the community of Niagara Falls - which is considered to be one of the main tourist attractions in the province of Ontario.  The waterfall is one of the most majestic sights to see, and it has inspired many newly married people to get into the mood for romance and passion.

(And maybe the occasional person who has tried to go over the falls in a barrel.)

Of course, everyone knows that there are two different places named after the waterfall.  There's the Niagara Falls in Ontario, as well as the Niagara Falls in New York.  Of course, we Ontarians will be the first to tell you that the view of the falls from our side is much better.

But one man decided that he wanted to see both sides of the a way that nobody had ever attempted to do so before.  This prompted ABC to air live coverage of the event and millions of people all over the world to tune in to the event.

For June 15, 2012 was the night that Nik Wallenda would cross the length of the falls on a tightrope - the first (and only) time this had ever been done.

Now, doing death-defying stunts was nothing new for the then 33-year-old tightrope walker.  After all, he is a descendant of the famous Flying Wallendas family, a group of stunt performers known for doing wild, crazy, and dangerous stunts.  Perhaps nobody knew the risk of that more that the founder of the group, Karl Wallenda.  Having appeared in circuses since the age of six, Wallenda and his family became well known for doing all sorts of highwire tricks (without the use of a safety net), and he continued to perform right up to his death in 1978 when he fell off of a tightrope suspended between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Nik Wallenda followed in the footsteps of Karl, and began working as a professional tightrope walker in 1992, at the age of thirteen.  Over the years, he managed to perform several impressive stunts, which included the following;

- Performing in the "Wheel of Steel" at selected Ringling Brothers performances during 2007 and 2008
- Rode a bicycle across a wire suspended from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on the Today Show in October 2008
- Participated in the Walk Across America tour throughout 2009, which saw him walking a tightrope suspended above or near American landmarks
- Rode a bicycle above a wire suspended above the ocean in the Bahamas in 2010; breaking a record for distance that he first set in 2008
- Walked between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2011 with his mother to pay homage to his great-grandfather who died thirty-three years earlier performing the same stunt
- Performed a trapeze act while hanging from a helicopter over Branson, Missouri in 2011

My goodness, I get vertigo just typing out that list!  And to think that all of that was in preparation for the Niagara Falls crossing - a challenge that reportedly took over two years to prepare for.

You see, crossing Niagara Falls meant that Nik Wallenda was essentially crossing the border between Canada and the United States.  That meant that he had to get permission from both countries in order to have the stunt go through in the first place.  That was part of the reason why it took two years for the stunt to get approved.  Add to the fact that both the province of Ontario and New York State at that time had anti-stunting laws in effect, and it proved to be a challenge for Wallenda to even get permission to perform the stunt.

Fortunately for Wallenda, it was fairly easy to get that approval on the American side.  He met with New York senator George Maziarz to draft a bill that would give Wallenda a one-time exemption to the current law in place - a bill that was eventually signed by governor Andrew Cuomo in September 2011.

When it came time to get permission from the Canadian government, it proved to be more of a challenge.  Ontario's Niagara Parks Commission was opposed to Wallenda's stunt, and initially voted not to repeal their own set of anti-stunting laws.  Their worry was that other people would try to mimic Wallenda's stunt, or cause people to try their own dangerous acts around the falls (such as the dropping over the side of the falls in a barrel).  But when Wallenda pointed out the economic benefits of such a stunt and increased tourist dollars being piped into the Canadian economy as a result of the stunt, it managed to get everyone's attention.  In February 2012, the committee reversed the decision and allowed Wallenda to go ahead with the stunt - provided that he pay for his own rigging and commission costs.

Weeks before the walk was to take place, Wallenda practiced for the event.  He set up tightrope wires in the area and walked down the wire with fire trucks spraying water at him (to simulate the conditions that he would face from the rushing water of Niagara Falls.  However, the walk was nearly cancelled on June 4, when the American permits were delayed and the American park officials had claimed that they hadn't been paid.  It was dicey towards the end of the planning, but eventually everything was smoothed out via a wire transfer via ABC (the network airing the coverage), and the date was set for June 15.

When you account for the number of people who watched the event live from both sides of Niagara Falls, there were easily 150,000 people there to cheer him on with millions more watching live on ABC - the actual number of viewers is difficult to pinpoint, but it was estimated that over thirteen million viewers watched the stunt live.

And to end this blog off, let's watch that moment as it took place five years ago...starting from the American side and ending in Canada.

And no...I would NEVER do this!!!

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