In a 9/11 Survival Tale, the Pieces Just Don’t Fit
Tania Head’s story, as shared over the years with reporters, students, friends and hundreds of visitors to ground zero, was a remarkable account of both life and death.What does this mean, "no part of her story has been verified"? Apparently it carries a double meaning: Her story may be entirely false, and until now, nobody has ever checked it. Not even a little bit.
She had, she said, survived the terror attack on the World Trade Center despite having been badly burned when the plane crashed into the upper floors of the south tower.
Crawling through the chaos and carnage on the 78th floor that morning, she said, she encountered a dying man who handed her his inscribed wedding ring, which she later returned to his widow.
Her own life was saved, she said, by a selfless volunteer who stanched the flames on her burning clothes before she was helped down the stairs. It was a journey she said she had the strength to make because she kept thinking of a beautiful white dress she was to wear at her coming marriage ceremony to a man named Dave.
But later she would discover, she said, that Dave, her fiancé, and in some versions her husband, had perished in the north tower.
Much of Ms. Head’s account was posted on the Web site of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, a nonprofit organization for which she served as president and as point person for corporate donations.
But no part of her story, it turns out, has been verified.
It would have been easy enough to blow it out of the water.
The family and friends of the man to whom she claimed to be engaged say they have never heard of Tania Head and view the relationship she describes with the man, who truly died in the north tower, as an impossibility.I wouldn't be surprised if Tania Head's story is an utter fraud.
A spokeswoman for Merrill Lynch & Company, where she told people she worked at the time of the terror attack, said the company had no record of employing a Tania Head.
And few people, it seems, who embraced the gripping immediacy and pain of her account ever asked the name of the man whose ring she had returned, or that of the hospital where she was treated, or the identities of the people she met with in the south tower on the morning of 9/11.
“She never shared those details, and it was nothing we wanted to probe,” said Alison Crowther, the mother of Welles Remy Crowther, a man who died on 9/11 and who is credited with rescuing a number of people from the south tower, including, by Ms. Head’s account, Ms. Head. “I felt it was too private and painful for her.”
In recent weeks, The New York Times sought to interview Ms. Head about her experiences on 9/11 because she had, in other settings, presented a poignant account of survival and loss. But she canceled three scheduled interviews, citing her privacy and emotional turmoil, and declined to provide details to corroborate her story. During a telephone conversation on Tuesday, she would not explain her reticence, saying only that she had not filed any claims with the federal Victim Compensation Fund. “I have done nothing illegal,” Ms. Head said.
No one has suggested that Ms. Head did anything to profit financially from her position as an officer with the Survivors’ Network, the nonprofit group for which she helped to raise money. But the organizations with which she has been affiliated have also questioned her account after learning of the inquiries from The Times.It's an amazing story, even if (or perhaps because) none of it is true. You can read the rest here (or here).
For several weeks, colleagues who said they respected the good work she had done as a fixture in the survivor community have pressed her to come forward with clarifying details. But they said that they had been unable to persuade her or, in other cases, that she made representations that contradicted previous versions she had given.
Why would anybody do such a thing? [Warning: Conspiracy Theory Ahead]
Is she a COINTELPRO mole, sent to scramble the brains and destroy the credibility of the 9/11 survivors? Or is she just totally nuts?
We've seen both kinds of crazy actors many times already, but it's never easy to tell what makes them so crazy.
This tale reminds me of Jonathan Kenney, the imaginary war hero we discussed two and a half years ago. Clearly that story was the product of a very sick mind, but was the sick mind working alone to fabricate the story? We may never know.
The same questions appear in this case, as do the same answers, at least in my opinion.
As usual, I could be wrong.