The fantasist of 9/11
By Adrian Gatton
12 September 2008
The story of Tania Head’s escape from the Twin Towers captivated America and made her a heroine among survivors. Just one problem – she wasn’t even there that day.
During the years following the 9/11 attacks, many stories emerged of triumph, tragedy and heroism. But one story stood out. Tania Head was one of only 19 people to survive above the point of impact in the South Tower at the World Trade Centre.
Her story was triumphant and tragic. She was a survivor who, despite horrific burns, had escaped the falling towers, but she was a victim, too, in that she lost her fiance, Dave, when the North Tower collapsed.
As Tania Head became president of the self-help group, the World Trade Centre Survivors’ Network, her vivid account of miraculous escape and tragic loss convinced everyone – politicians, media, fellow survivors and the families of those who died in the attacks.
But Tania wasn’t who she said she was. And on the day of the attacks she wasn’t even in New York; she was thousands of miles away in Spain, sitting down to lectures at a business school in Barcelona, where she was completing a masters in business administration at one of Europe’s most prestigious – and expensive – business schools.
Her fellow students went on to work in industry, but in 2003, Tania Head, a member of one of Barcelona’s richest families, flew to New York to adopt her carefully studied persona as a victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But why did she do it? To get the answers I had to search across the U.S., Spain and even Switzerland for clues.
I quickly found that many doors in New York were shut, but I found copies of her copious emails and writings.
The answer to Tania’s hoax appeared to lie in her own past, a mysterious arm injury and her almost professional pride in fulfilling her role successfully.
But, more disturbingly, she took advantage of the culture of 9/11, in a so-called ‘hierarchy of suffering’ that built up among the survivors …