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Ascent From Heaven

On May 26, 1977, a Queens mountain climber became a New York folk hero by scaling the 1,350-foot South Tower of the World Trade Center. Wearing jeans and using equipment he tested in secret at night,” the 27-year-old made the ascent “to the delight of thousands of pedestrians who watched his 3-and-a-half-hour effort,” The New York Times reported. The man, George H. Willig, was arrested by the Port Authority police and given 3 summonses. He was later served with a $250,000 suit by New York City. “But to the people on the street he was a hero,” The Times reported

Even the officers assigned to climb up with him congratulated him on his achievement. “Officer Allen, who as a member of Emergency Service Squad 1 has rescued potential suicides and been as high as the top of the George Washington Bridge towers in his work, seemed elated after his assignment yesterday — and full of admiration for Mr. Willig, who, he said, ‘was in fantastic shape,’” The Times noted. Our staff photographer Tyrone Dukes took this photo of George climbing as 2 police officers followed in a window washer’s scaffold. Why did he do it? “It was a personal challenge, a challenge to my ingenuity,” George told the paper

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