He made it.
Nik Wallenda became a true King of the High Wire on Friday night as the seventh-generation circus performer triumphantly sprinted off the 1,800-foot steel cable strung over Niagara Falls, dashing any doubts of all the naysayers who said such a feat could never be done.
It took 26 breathless, heart-pounding minutes for Wallenda to accomplish his feat on the 2-inch-wide cable. The daredevil walked from Terrapin Point on Goat Island on the American side of the Horseshoe Falls to the Canadian side – crossing over the gaping brink of the thundering cataracts in the process.
Tens of thousands had been gathering since early afternoon on both sides of the border to watch the daredevil's audacious attempt to realize a childhood dream to walk a tightrope across the world-famous falls.
The event was broadcast live by ABC to an estimated audience of millions across the nation – the ultimate reality television.
In the minutes before he began the walk that would lead him into the history books, Wallenda used a small steel brush to scuff the soles of his black elk and suede moccasins that his mother had made for him. They were designed to grip the cable, which dripped with wind-swept water.
Wallenda then huddled with his family on a grassy area by the rapids on the American side, where they held hands in a circle and prayed. He pulled his two youngest children, Amadaos, 11, and Evita, 9, close to him.
"I'm ready," he told an ABC reporter just a moment before hopping onto the wire. "Let's do this."
With the falls brightly lit like daytime to his left, Wallenda was lifted up onto a cherry picker at Terrapin Point and pulled himself effortlessly onto the wire at 10:15 p.m.
Adding to the perilous nature of his walk, there were no guy wires to steady the cable. Instead, seven counterweights were strategically positioned to stabilize it.
He carried a 38-pound balancing pole on a harness that hung over his neck. Against his wishes, Wallenda reluctantly dragged a tether behind him that would have caught him had he slipped from the wire.
"I just feel like a jackass wearing it," Wallenda complained to his father at one point during the walk.
Officials at ABC had insisted that he use the tether.
Throughout the walk, Wallenda was in radio communication with his father, Terry Troffer, who was in a production trailer providing calming reassurances for his son.
"Take your time," Troffer told his son. "Slow your rhythm down."
At many points, Wallenda, who wore a microphone for the TV broadcast, could be heard praying.
"Thank you, Lord God. Thank you, Jesus," he said as he confidently placed one foot in front of the other.
He started out over the ground next to the rapids. The anxious crowd at Goat Island was rapt with every step the wire-walker took, cheering in unison each time he made it past one of the seven weighted pendulums.
Eight minutes into his walk, he was at the lip of the falls.
With roaring rapids dropping beneath him, Wallenda was calm enough to be interviewed by an ABC reporter about what he saw beneath his feet.
"Oh, my god," he said. "It's an unbelievable view. I am so blessed to be in the position I am to be the first person in the world to be right here. It's truly breathtaking. This is what dreams are made of, people. Pursue your dreams and don't give up."
It had taken Wallenda months of persistent lobbying and negotiating to win permission from authorities on both sides of the border to attempt the stunt.
As he walked, he remarked that the fast water below him made it hard for him to see how much his wire was moving.
But he persevered.
"So far, so good," he said.
Every time Wallenda would pass one of the pendulums that hung from the wire to keep it from rolling, the crowd on the American side would roar with excitement. People hugged each other. Couples kissed.
On the Canadian side, the crowd couldn't see past the wall of mist in the the middle of the falls. They craned their necks and squinted through binoculars in hopes of catching a glimpse.
Wallenda learned firsthand just how thick that mist from the thundering cataracts was as he trudged through it. An ABC camera showed him soaking wet, his red and black track suit flapping wildly in the wind.
He had tried to prepare for just such conditions last month as he practiced outside the Seneca Niagara Casino. Firefighters sprayed him with hoses and an airboat blasted him with air to simulate the sudden gusts.
Nearly two-thirds into the walk, as he entered Canadian airspace, a soaking-wet Wallenda discussed how difficult the journey became over the heart of the falls.
"That mist was thick and it was hard to see at times," he said. "It was very hard to focus. There was so much moving around me, wind going one way, mist going another."
Among the tens of thousands watching from Table Rock was Kathy Simpson of Waterloo, Ont.
"I'm shaking," she said, her hands to her face with worry. "I wonder what he's thinking."
As he climbed out of the wet zone and up the final stretch, Wallenda described being drained and weakened by the walk. He also said his hands felt as if they were going numb.
With just steps remaining, he pumped his right fist, pointed to the crowd and kneeled.
Screams of excitement crescendoed from the crowd on the Canadian side as Wallenda neared the end of the wire.
"I've never seen anything like that ever before, and I probably won't ever again," gushed Rita Cappacio of Depew, also at Table Rock.
Drenched in water and looking exhausted, Wallenda couldn't resist a bit of showmanship in the last moments of his tension-filled walk.
He pumped his fist and then ran the last few steps on the wire, smiling as he jumped to the cherry picker awaiting him at Table Rock.
There to greet him on the platform was his NASA engineer uncle who designed the wire and tether and a Canadian customs official. Wallenda handed the official his passport that he had carried.
"What is the purpose of your trip, sir?" the inspector asked.
"To inspire people worldwide," Wallenda declared.
The crowd erupted into deafening screams as Wallenda completed his journey; millions across the globe watched the highly anticipated stunt.
Harvey and Judy Watters of Hamilton, Ont., hung a large cloth sign spray-painted with "Go Nik go, you made it!" over the rail on the grass behind Table Rock.
"It was great to be here," said Jason McAloon of Boston, Mass., who drove in with his friend Lisa Bombardier Thursday after hearing about the stunt.
"He was cruising," McAloon said, amazed.
"We were here to witness it: the best daredevil event in a century," said Martin Zarb of Port Colborne, Ont., who made certain to be at Table Rock at 2 p.m. so that he would have a prime spot to view Wallenda walking from the U.S. straight toward him. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
Reporters Jay Tokasz, Kathleen Ronayne, Denise Jewell Gee, Marwa Eltagouri, Stephen Watson and Anne Neville contributed to this report.