On our way to a meeting with our friends from Sideways on Tuesday, Seungeun Song (our beloved intern from South Korea) and I walked past Macy's where a crowd had gathered around the temporary swimming pool erected right in front of the store--smack dab in the middle of that busy Herald Square thoroughfare.
Yes, you heard it right, a swimming pool. In fact, a lap pool with two lanes. 42,000 gallons of water, set at 82 degrees fahrenheit. The pool is central to the fund raising effort called Nyad Swim for Relief, raising money to aid Hurricane Sandy victims. Long distance swimmer Diana Nyad (the amazing 64 year old endurance swimmer who recently set a record for her swim from Cuba to Florida) agreed to swim for 48 hours straight in that Herald Square pool to bring attention to the relief effort.
When we stopped by on Tuesday, Diana was just 4 hours and 47 minutes into this incredible undertaking..
I'm writing this at just before 9 AM this morning (two days later !) and just minutes ago, Diana completed her swim. So night and day, while the rest of us were working, sleeping, eating and whatever else we do, she was paddling away in front of Macy's (well, not paddling, really...hers was the smoothest, most beautiful overarm stroke I've ever seen). During much of the time she was accompanied in the other lane by another swimmer, sometimes a celebrity of sorts, sometimes a member of a team involved in the money raising effort. None of them stayed in the pool very long. And I haven't heard of anyone who was in the pool with her in the middle of the night.
We're told she took only brief bathroom and food breaks. In her post-swim interview, Diana said that the water heated up so that by the end of the swim, it was a warm 95 degrees and she loved it. As for feeling lonely? Not a chance, she said. Compared to the ocean this was great fun, surrounded by people cheering her on and making her feel she was among friends.
It was the kind of spectacle that makes people nod and smile, saying "Only in New York."
It certainly had us all talking round the pool. And beyond the pool.
Here's to Diana Nyad, the indefatigable woman who raised $102,000 for Hurricane Sandy relief while making her 64 years look like youth. I wish we could transfer her kind of stamina to the good guys (there are a few of them) in Washington. They'll need it to keep up their efforts to wrestle this nation out of its shutdown.