Tania Head was 9/11’s most famous survivor. She shocked and inspired the country with her horrific tale of being on the 78th floor of the South tower when tragedy struck; Tania claimed to have witnessed her assistant decapitated, and her own arm caught fire, but she’d had such a will to live! Tania was found by a fireman who put out the fire on her arm and brought her to safety. On her way out of the building, a dying man gave her his inscribed wedding ring and begged her to return it to his wife, which Tania did. She was only one of 19 people who survived from above the point of impact. Sadly, Tania’s fiance, Dave, who had been in the North tower, was one of the 2800 victims who lost their lives that day.
After the tragedy, hundreds of survivors formed a support group; it began online, but eventually everyone came together for meetings in person. Tania was right there in the middle of it, she became one of the group’s greatest cheerleaders. She was a woman who’d lost so much: a fiance, she’d suffered terrible burns, yet she was so determined to be happy. She was a role model for the others, and fellow survivors just flocked to her almost like a fan club. They were all so inspired by her cheerful demeanor. Others became depressed by Tania’s presence; they hadn’t been through anywhere near as much, yet they were struggling so hard to move forward.
Tania’s story did evolve over time. “Red Bandana Man” was a 24 year old named Welles Crowder; Welles was a hero who ran into the towers more than once to save his fellow Americans. Sadly, he lost his own life during the collapse. When Tania heard about this young man, suddenly she integrated him into her story; Welles had been the one to save her, he was the one who had put her fire out! In March of 2006, Tania even met with Welles’ parents, she told them that she had photos of her hero in every single room of her home. Mr. and Mrs. Crowder were so proud of their son, and they loved Tania for sharing her memories of their Welles.
Tania had an impressive story, but that’s just it: it was all just a story. Many noticed the inconsistencies, but who would question her? Why would anyone doubt someone who’d been through so much, surely nobody would lie about this! Plus she’d done a world of good for the support group, and politicians were paying attention to her. Tania, who had attended both Stanford and Harvard, was eventually chosen to become the president of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, and appointed to give the very first guided tours of ground zero to the mayor Rudy Giuliani and other dignitaries.
Tania quickly became the best known of all the survivors, she was undeniably famous. On the 7th of September in 2006, the New York Times decided to write a piece about the woman and all she’d been through. While doing some light digging into her story, they realized nothing Tania said added up. For starters, her supposed fiance’s family had never even heard of her!
Come to find out, Tania had lied about literally everything, even her name; she was really Alicia Esteve Head, a woman from Barcelona, Spain. She came from a very privileged background, had grown up in a well to do family. Though she was very well educated, had attended some of the best schools in the entire world, she was absolutely not a Harvard Grad. As a matter of fact, Alicia had never once even stepped foot in the US until two years after 9/11! Those who had known her as Alicia stated that she’d told various stories as to how she got the burn marks on her arm: she’d received it in a car wreck, or while riding a horse in an exclusive country club. She had become involved in the 911 survivor’s support groups online while living in Barcelona, then moved to New York to live out her dark fantasies.
As you can imagine, when Alicia was exposed for what she really was, the true 9/11 survivors were absolutely devastated. Many have said that they couldn’t help but compare themselves to this woman, and they’d often felt as though they weren’t doing as well as Tania even though she had been through so much more than them. Now she’d embarrassed them all, and tarnished their name. They were left to pick up the pieces; as soon as the story broke, Tania simply packed her bags and moved away. In February of 2008, the survivor’s network received an email from a Spanish account stating that Tania had committed suicide; this appears to have been a lie as well. There have been Facebook pages with the woman’s name on it, but they tend to disappear around this time of year.
Even though what Alicia did seems incomprehensible, she was not the only one to fake surviving this tragedy; there have been several. Comedian Steve Rannazzisi told the world that he had been working for Merrill Lynch on the 54th floor of the South tower that day. His story was later proved to be false, and Steve apologized. Neither he nor Alicia gained financially from their lies, the motive seems to be attention; these people wanted fame, and they got it.
*There’s a very interesting documentary about Tania Head, if you’re interested:
*I’m sure plenty of you have read this before, I posted it last year. Again, my apologies for the repeats. Hoping you’re all doing well.