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Guest Post: The Woman Who Wasn’t There – A True Story

Guest Post: The Woman Who Wasn't There - A True Story

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.

When Angelo brought us this story, I was hooked.  To me it wasn’t a 9/11 film but a character-driven, psychological suspense thriller.  It had themes of friendship, ambition, betrayal, deception.  It touched upon the philosophical – if you do something bad but have good intentions, does that absolve you?  Should you be punished or heralded?  The answer is actually pretty clear-cut.  You’re punished.  But perhaps punished with an asterisk.

I’m often drawn to characters who live in the grey area of morality and I have found myself consistently attracted to characters like Tania.  Some on TV like Walter White who becomes a meth manufacturer in order to leave a nest egg for his family before he dies.  Love it.  Dexter Morgan.  Kills people who’ve killed others.  I’m in (save for last season).  Sydney Bristow.  Lies to her closest friends about everything in her life because she’s an undercover CIA operative.  Sign me up.  In each case, part of the hook is anticipating how their loved ones will react if/when they find out the truth about the person they thought they knew.  I’ve pictured myself in that position.  Could I reconcile all the lies?  Could I forgive? 

Tania Head created a false identity to ingratiate herself into a community and did monumental, life-saving work that gave hope and strength to people who were struggling to recover from a debilitating trauma.  As a character, Tania Head might be categorized as an anti-hero like Walter White and Dexter Morgan.  And, in fact, “Tania Head” is a fictional character.  But she wasn’t to the people who knew her, who loved her, who, they thought, were loved by her.  How do they reconcile that?  Can they forgive?

Amy Rapp runs Meredith Vieira Productions and is the producer of the documentary THE WOMAN WHO WASN’T THERE, which premieres on April 17, 2012 at 8pm on Investigation Discovery, presented by ID Films, and is currently playing at Quad Cinema in New York and Laemmle NoHo 7 in Los Angeles.


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Just a creepy commentary on how some people we encounter day to day are really SO sick. I wish the film had been more specific at the end though when they spotted Tania back on the streets of NYC. Why didn't they follow her or follow up right there? I would have liked at least an ending paragraph after the cameras zoomed on her….did they try to ask her why she did this? What was she doing back in NY? Did she have any remorse? The film left it all hanging and I think the film makers could have been more pro-active to follow up and try to get answers…right there on the streets of NYC as they spotted her. She's a sick gal, but that doesn't excuse her from the deception…


what a piece of s h it this fat crap is.. realllly ..they oughta drop her from the top of a building.


I watched the film Tuesday,and I definitely do not think she had any good intentions.I think she is a pathological liar and has a fetish for watching other people suffer emotionally.I have grown up around a couple of people like her.


It is truly a riveting tale. But I want to also say that the movie itself was phenomenal. From the personal interviews to the way art was used to depict Tania's story kept me glued to the screen and I practically didn't blink the entire time. I also liked the way there was a bit of humor mixed in. The scenes/interviews from Spain and the breathtaking ending was excellent too. The director and producer did a great job with this.


I read the book and watched the documentary last night. I cannot even begin to imagine how the survivors felt after finding out the deception. I felt for all and specially for Linda. The abuse she took was too much. Tania seemed to have this aura of "rockstar" and no one seemed to want to rock the boat and upset her. What an amazing manipulator she was. She did miss her calling…would have made an amazing storyteller.

This book and documentary made me very angry and I wonder why something couldn't be done to revoke her visa or something. Keep her away from NYC. The ending with her in NYC on 9/14 just left me with such a bad taste in my mouth. She is probably lying to someone else these days about something, I'm sure.

Anyone knows if the Oklahoma City Bombing survivors still support her? It sounded from the book like they did.


My family and I watched the special on ID last night…It left us shocked and upset. I would never forgive her as she took advantage of so many at the very time they were most vulnerable.
Although we didn't have anyone directly affected by 9/11 our two sons currently serve in our military to protect all of us. It's a shame that this threat came from the "inside".

Sonda Satkey

I watched The Woman Who Wasn't There this evening. Although what this woman did was outrageous and just wrong, as I listened to the survivors tell their stories at the beginning of the program, one thing became clear to me. Every single one of them that because of Tania, their lives got better. They felt better. Their pain eased. So I just want to say that although she lied, and yes I believe it hurt those survivors and led them to feel betrayed, I believe Tania was put there to help them, which she did.


After reading the book, I do not know how The Survivor Group stood her antics for as long as they did. I find what she did "repulsive" and am hoping that all of New York shuns this evil woman.
Best to you all in your healing.

Jim Jenca


You ask in your last statement, "Can they forgive?" Well the answer is quite simple for me and that answer is Never. I can never forgive what this woman has done to me or all the others. I know it's been stated about how forgiving "WE" are. Please let it be known that I am not part of that "WE". I happen to find her repulsive. I had the unpleasant experience of being "ABUSED" by this woman. This poor excuse of a human being calculated everything she did for her "OWN GAIN" On a lighter note, I really enjoyed reading your comment, Jim Jenca


I attended a college in Connecticut and was involved in the theater deparment. A woman who had AIDS became close to many of the students there, and they helped create a musical about her life, and her fight against AIDS. Only it came out that she was not sick. At least not with AIDS. She had made the whole thing up. When the students became outraged at the situation, one of our professors pointed out – she is sick. Just with a different disease. The fact she would live her life as if she did have AIDS, and spend so much energy on that – means she is sick and needs help… It's just fascinating, what human beings do.

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