Swim for Liberty

On the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Ben sought to join Washington, D.C. with New York City by swimming the Potomac River and New York Harbor.

Media Coverage

BBC News: Frenchman plans US attacks swim tribute

WASHINGTON, : French marathon swimmer Benoit Lecomte (L) is temporarily detained by Metropolitan Police Officers J.E. Hatton (C) and P. Keller (R), due to security concerns, 11 September 2002 after the start of his “liberty swim” on the Potomac River in Washington, DC. Lecomte is swimming from Washington, DC, to New York, NY in remembrance of the 11 September attacks. AFP PHOTO/Manny CENETA (Photo credit should read MANNY CENETA/AFP via Getty Images)

Expedition Overview

At the one-year anniversary of the tragic attacks of 9/11, Ben felt compelled to try to help heal a hurting nation. Ben had already completed his 1998 swim of the Atlantic as well as some local swims in Central Texas, so he had a budding cause-based media platform he thought might be newsworthy. At the time, as a Frenchman married to an American, Ben wanted to signal global unity and interstate connection as a memorial tribute.

Ben decided to swim north on the Potomac River from Chesapeake Bay, through the heart of an attacked city, Washington DC. From there, Ben planned to travel to New York City and swim a lap around Liberty Island, the home of the Statue of Liberty – France’s famous gift to the United States – and close to the Ground Zero. In this final leg, he expected to be joined by other marathon swimmers in New York’s harbor.

Ben called this expedition Swim for Liberty to promote friendship and democracy on a world stage. Unfortunately, the expedition ended abruptly.

Swim for Liberty had been planned relatively hasty compared to his transoceanic expeditions. Since the Potomac is an inland river, Ben could exit to the shore at anytime, thus negating the need for a support boat or large team. Ben had a few friends and well-wishers along the way that offered to feed him and let him sleep for at night. The staged plan allowed him to swim the full length of the river before continuing to New York.

During the swim, in an area with heightened security, Police briefly detained Ben as he swam near a military base. As a foreign national in scuba gear, he looked awfully suspicious!

Rather than risk harm or sow any further concern, Ben decided to end this expedition early. He is still grateful to everyone offering him support.

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