SARASOTA (FOX 13) - The fall was high enough that someone could have been killed, but Nik Wallenda is calling it a miracle that everyone walked away with their lives.
Wallenda told reporters from outside the big top at Circus Sarasota, there’s little that will stop him from doing what he loves, and he proved it Thursday night as he took the tightrope in front of a packed big top.
It was just a little over 24 hours since he watched family and friends fall from the wire. But he says this is a family choice and it's one guided by faith.
Thursday was something of an 'industry night' at Circus Sarasota. The seats were filled with retired performers who know the dangers of performing under the big tent.
"You can perform 1,000 times, one mistake, you're down and you're dead or serious injury," said 17-year acrobat John Naumowicz.
And Wallenda has seen tragedy before. In 1978, his great grandfather, Karl died after falling from a tightrope in Puerto Rico. The tragedy could have ended the Wallenda legacy. Instead, it inspired Nik to carry it forward to a new generation.
"I've always said our family, through triumph and tragedy, has continued on. I believe that words are powerful and there was triumph through this tragedy," Wallenda said.
Wednesday, the Wallenda family once again faced the potential for tragedy. Instead, he says they witnessed a miracle.
"God was surrounding us. It could have been much worse," Wallenda said.
Wallenda was on this wire, along with seven other performers, practicing an eight-person pyramid, when something went wrong. He believes one of the performers may have blacked out, causing the pyramid to become unstable.
Five people tumbled more than 30 feet to the ground below. Nik saw the whole thing happen.
“I was the one calling all the shots. I had to watch the thing play out in front of my eyes, in slow motion," Wallenda recalled.
Five people went to the hospital. One was released Thursday afternoon.
The four-layer pyramid stretched more than 43 feet high. A fall from that distance could have killed someone. Nik says it's a miracle everyone survived.
“If you don't believe in God, you better now because it's a miracle. One of the guys was up over 40 feet high on the pyramid and he will walk out on the hospital on his own and he had three broken toes. That's a miracle guys," Wallenda said.
Nik's said his Christian faith is a central part of his life and his performances.
“We pray before every performance as a family. We're not all family direct, but I consider everyone in that act my family as much as anyone else," Wallenda said.
He says it drives him to walk the high wire again, in honor of all those now recovering.
“This is life this is my passion. This isn't a job. This isn't a career. This is who I am. My great grandfather said life is on the wire and everything else is just waiting."
Wallenda said he planned to unveil the eight-person pyramid before a full audience at Circus Sarasota Thursday night. Instead, he did solo performance.