Diana Nyad Tackles 9/11 With Predictable Results

In addressing the September 11 terrorist attacks, Nyad lies to increase her trauma cred and cover herself with a façade of empathy.

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)

Nyad tells the lie again in “Remembering 9/11,” her latest Medium piece (reposted to Facebook):

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 turns eight on 22 August 1957

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