Diana Nyad was born in New York City on August 22, 1949, but her family had moved to Florida by the time she was three. She has begun claiming, however, that she lived in New York until she was seven.
I’ve heard her tell this lie twice. The first time came during an interview in June. For some reason known only to herself, she wanted to bump up her street cred:
I was born in New York, Kelsey, and I take that to heart. I was there until age seven. And, uh, had a little New Yorky tough kinda thing about me. (Benefits Buzz podcast, 6:18)
I feel the deep pain of a New Yorker, born there, my first seven years in Manhattan, and later twenty-five more formative years there. It will always be my heart place and now I am not there. I can’t help. I am helpless.
Nyad’s inventions don’t normally make me fume. Usually, I chalk them up to Nyad being Nyad. Not to mention that she has a history of using other peoples’ trauma to coat herself in a patina of compassion. But parasitizing September 11 feels different, akin to her doing the same with the Holocaust survivor she invents.
In Dan Barry’s revelatory and heartbreaking New York Times essay, “What Does It Mean to ‘Never Forget’” (you can listen to Barry read it here), he suggests two reasons why people might remain silent about their September 11 experiences. One is “simple reverence.” The other is “fear of being perceived as another 9/11 narcissist, the hero of our own narrative.”
Diana Nyad, fearless as ever, waded right in.
articles placing Diana NYAD in Florida, 1953-1956
Diana turns three on 22 August 1952
- Diana’s mom (as Lucy Sneed) runs into a few cars in Palm Beach, 14 June 1953.
- Lucy Sneed files for divorce in Florida, 7 July 1953.
- Big party at Aris’s — Diana’s soon-to-be step-dad — with Diana’s mom (as Mrs. Curtis Sneed) in attendance, 4 Oct 1953.
- Newlyweds Aris and Lucy return home to Palm Beach from Arizona, 13 Dec 1953.
- Diana Nyad (as Diana Sneed) makes her Palm Beach Post debut, 11 Feb 1954.
- Diana’s kindergarten class visits a bank, 1 May 1955.
- Diana gets a prize for “excellence in French,” 8 May 1955.
- Diana’s goes to a bank again, this time as a first-grader, 6 May 1956.
- The honors just keep rolling in, 19 May 1956.
- Cece Stephens turns six in grand style, and all her friends (including Diana) make the society page, 9 Nov 1956. (Also here!)
Diana turns eight on 22 August 1957