Almost everyone has a 9/11 story. They can describe where they were when the planes hit, when the towers collapsed, the days following. I have one. I was there. I watched the second tower collapse standing on Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan.
Almost everyone has a 9/11 story but no one had one more astounding than Tania Head. She had been on the 78th floor of the south tower when the 2nd plane hit. Her co-workers all died around her. Her assistant was decapitated. Her right arm was nearly severed. Her back was burned. Welles Crowther, “the man with the red bandanna”, saved her by leading her to the stairwell. She was one of only 19 people to make it out with her life but her life, as she knew it, was over. Her fiancée had been in the north tower and died when it fell. In 2003, she joined a group of survivors who were all struggling with post-traumatic stress, and they formed an organization called The World Trade Center Survivors’ Network. Tania rose to be the leader of this group, providing support and hope to all the others and giving them a voice in the post-9/11 landscape. She hired filmmaker Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. to document their issues and efforts and gave a series of stunning interviews, recounting her journey in chilling detail. She led the inaugural tour of Ground Zero for Mayors Bloomberg and Giuliani, Governor Pataki, and the media. She became the face and heart of the survivor community. She was an inspiration.
In 2007, The New York Times wanted to do a profile piece about Tania, heralding her achievements and what she’d overcome. But, while they were digging into the story, the pieces just weren’t adding up. It soon came to light that she had made it all up. She wasn’t in the Twin Towers on 9/11, she had no fiancée, she wasn’t even in New York on September 11th…and Tania Head wasn’t her real name. Guglielmo kept the cameras rolling.
Yes, almost everyone has a 9/11 story. But none is more astounding than that of the woman who wasn’t there.