Bear with me. I know you’ve been 9-1-1’d to death since the tragedy but this is a story from hell that you may never have heard. In fact, it is almost as bizarre as the tragedy itself. Speaking of Treva and her aliases, Alicia Esteve Head, aka Tania Head, (born July 31, 1973), is a morbidly obese Spanish woman who claimed to be a survivor of the World Trade Center September 11 attacks under the name Tania Head. Some survivors report they received little support in the aftermath of the attacks, with most attention paid to victims and their families, police officers and firefighters. The World Trade Center Survivors’ Network was an informal support group started by two survivors of the attacks partly as a reaction. The group slowly grew in size as additional survivors joined. After joining the group, Head’s lobbying saw survivors gain increased recognition. She successfully negotiated for survivors to be given access to ground zero, which they previously did not have. What impressed her fellow survivors most was how well Head was coping.
Head joined the survivors network in 2004 after Gerry Bogacz, one of its founders, learned through word of mouth that a woman named “Tania Head” had developed an internet group for survivors. Head claimed that she was on the 78th floor of the South Tower (WTC 2) when United Airlines 175 hit that floor. This would have made her one of only 19 people at or above the point of impact to have survived. She claimed her fiancé Dave was killed in the North Tower (WTC 1). In later tellings of the story, he was said to be her husband.She also claimed a dying man passed his wedding ring to her so it could be returned to his widow. Head said she had been rescued by Welles Crowther who perished in the collapse after rescuing 18 people and whose heroic actions were widely reported in the media. He is the only known person who perished in the 9-1-1 tragedy in order to rescue others. Crowther wanted to be a firefighter and used this devastating moment to prove himself worthy. After his death he was made an Honorary Member of the NYC Firefighters’ Department.
Barbara Conrad, a genuine 9-1-1 survivor, stated that each survivor had a notable element in their survival story: running down flights of stairs to escape; witnessing people’s deaths, but Head had all the elements of these details in her story. She seemed to have survived more trauma than anyone else, yet she was remarkably unaffected by it and coped extremely well. Eventually Head became 9-1-1’s most celebrated survivor. You have to ask yourself, what was going through her head (pun)?
In 2005 Head was chosen to lead tours for the Tribute W.T.C. Visitor Center for visitors including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former New York Governor George Pataki. Head made many speeches at colleges and with support groups, recounting her story as a survivor of the 9/11 attacks. Head regularly recounted her claims to Ground Zero tour groups. Tour groups hung on every word of her accounts of the plane’s impact and what followed. “The first thing you feel is a tremendous increase in pressure, all the air being sucked out of your lungs,” she said. “The next thing you feel is flying through the air.” Head recalled her experience in vivid detail, saying, “I was there at the towers. I’m a survivor. I’m going to tell you about that.” Everyone who met Head were struck by how strong she seemed, despite her terrible loss. One survivor recalled, “she wasn’t morose, she wasn’t depressed, and you know, that was in a way inspirational, Okay, it’s possible to live such horror and tragedy and still go on and, you know, have a life and be happy, relatively, you know.”
Her account reduced many people to tears and inspired thousands more. At a memorial service last year she said: “What I witnessed there I will never forget. It was a lot of death and destruction, but I also saw hope.” Head claimed these activities were unpaid volunteer efforts on her part. She was presented in articles on the World Trade Center aspect of 9/11 as representative of all of the 20,000 surviving New York victims who escaped the damaged buildings. Seriously. She spoke for 20,000 people. Oi. In September 2007, Head went so far as to force an actual survivor, Linda Gormley, to relive her trauma and mocked her when Gormley found it difficult. “YOU’RE scared! I’m the one that went through hell!” Head was reported as saying. But wait! There’s more. Head became sarcastic with a number of people in the Survivors’ Network and even had Borgacz vetoed out of his own survivor’s support group. In fact, anyone who crossed Head or who doubted her story and asked for further information soon disappeared from the group. Head was a conspirator in dismantling the integrity of the Survivors Network, yet no one noticed or were brave enough to call her on it.
In 2004, the Group began writing about the tragedy and Head was able to use it as an outlet to put her experience on paper. “It hurts as much now as then. I still cannot understand why, why? I talked to Dave and told him I was sorry. He didn’t answer back. Our photos together are now only ghosts of a life we had I desperately want back. My other half is missing, ripped away from us by human missiles…” She set about creating a personal audience for her suffering. She began mass mail-outs to all 500 members of the Network. The article above is titled “Tall Tales”. It should have been titled “Fat Chance.”
Four years after the attack, politicians opened the Survivors’ Tribute Centre in front of the world’s press. “However many hundreds of times I’ve been here since the attacks you don’t see visitors coming here who were not here that day, walking the grounds, peering at the site, trying to comprehend the story, and it’s our obligation to tell that story.” Head’s account of her survival was the one story and tour that summed up survivors’ suffering. Michael Daly, a reporter with New York’s Daily News, also picked up on Head’s behaviour . “It didn’t seem easy for her, or at least, she was appropriately moved by what she was saying.” People were listening to her.” Another reporter explained, “ I could see that she was nervous, edgy and my reading at the time was because it was the nature of the Tibute Centre, knowing she would she would be the first person giving the first short work.”
Not long after her public appearance, Head backed out of three scheduled interviews, and later refused to speak to reporters. The New York Times contacted other members of the Survivors’ Network, some of whom unsuccessfully urged Head to speak to the reporters. The New York Times‘ probe raised questions about the veracity of Head’s story and by the week of September 27, 2007, the Network voted to remove her as president and as a director of the group. One of the elements of the story in question was her engagement to a man named “Dave”. A reported pursued her story, even though he felt bad about doubting this survivor. The man’s family claimed to have never heard of Tania Head (the man’s identity was withheld to protect his family’s privacy). She said she had the strength to make it down the stairs to safety because she kept thinking of the beautiful white dress she was to wear at her wedding to her fiance David. But as she recovered in hospital she learned that David, a financier, had died in the north tower. They had just started living together after a Hawaiian holiday, she told people. For years, no one questioned Miss Head’s story about her presence in the South Tower. Welles Crowther’s mother Alison, who met her several times, said: “I felt it was too private and painful to her to ask questions.”
Janice Cilento, a social worker on the board of the Survivors’ Network and close to Head, said in September 2007 that Head had made changes to her account in recent weeks. Head claimed a degree from Harvard University and a graduate business degree from Stanford University but the institutions reported there was norecord of her having been a student there. Head claimed she worked at Merrill Lynch in the World Trade Center. Merrill Lynch said it had no record of her being employed there. Until questions were asked, Miss Head had made a name for herself as a remarkable survivor. She had emotional meetings with senior politicians such as former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, current mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former state governor George Pataki. The New York Times sought to verify key details of Head’s story. For instance, Bloomberg contacted “David’s” family and discovered that he had indeed existed and did die in the North Tower. What they disputed was that he’d been married or engaged to Taina Head. In fact, they’d never heard of her.
Finally, Cilento accompanied Head to her lawyer’s office after Head sought legal advice for what she describe as Bloomberg’s persecution. The lawyer casually asked Cilento if there would be no anger or fingers pointed at Head for “embellishing” stories about Dave, being in the South Tower during the attack, and being a survivor of 9-1-1, would there? She smiled nicely at the stunned Cilento. Head simply chomped on a candy and ignored Cilento’s shocked stare. Members of the Survivors Network later described how Head’s betrayal felt like a second death. They buried the woman they knew as Tania Head, the woman they believed 100% was a 9-1-1 survivor. They were confronted with the fraud Alicia Head and it was like “hitting a brick wall.” First they were traumatized by the 9-1-1 attack. Now they were traumatized by Head’s horrible manipulation. For months, survivors and the author of The Woman Who Wasn’t There, Angelo Guglielmo Jr., hoped to see a glimpse of remorse, perhaps an apology, from Head but in vain. Head never re-visited the Survivors Network and seemed completely unashamed. The answer to her unabashed reaction is easy: Head is as psychopath. She lacks empathy, conscience and the ability to feel true trauma or shame. The survivors and Guglielmo are seeking emotion from a person who has none. To echo an expression I once read about a woman trying to convince her daughter that her father, who had long abandoned the family, would never re-enter her life: “don’t go looking for butter in a hardware store.”
According to Adrian Gatton, producer of Channel 4 documentary The 9/11 Faker, Head was not even in the United States on September 11, 2001. She was in Barcelona, Spain, attending business school. A report in Barcelona daily newspaper La Vanguardia on October 2, 2007, said Head had attended MBA classes at ESADE Business School in Barcelona just a week after the September 11 attacks. Her classmates do not recall her discussing the attacks or losing a fiancé or husband, and she showed no recent injuries. Head told her MBA colleagues that the arm injury was the result of an automobile accident, or alternatively a horse riding accident. La Vanguardia reported that Head attended classes in the program until June 2002, and had told classmates she wanted to work in New York City: Barcelona simply wasn’t big enough for her dreams. Head had earlier attended the University of Barcelona, and worked for a local entertainment promoter and for Hosiva, a Spanish hotel company.
In July 2012 Head was fired from her latest position at Inter Partner Assistance, an insurance company in Barcelona, once her employers found out about her ruse in New York. She had been performing well but the company was afraid of losing customers’ trust. Definitely head was not the best choice for a spokesperson.In February 2008, an email sent from a Spanish account to members of the World Trade Center Survivors Network claimed that Head had committed suicide. The story stemmed from an anonymous blogger in the Survivor’s Network who was later suspected to be Head. However, in the documentary The 9/11 Faker broadcast in September 2008, Head’s
whereabouts were said to be unknown. In the book and feature film documentary titled “The Woman Who Wasn’t There”, Head’s story was told from inside the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network utilizing interviews with Head and members of the Network before and after the deception (Head declined further interviews after the revelation of her identity). At the conclusion of both book and film, Tania Head was sighted in New York City on September 14, 2011, refuting previous claims that she had committed suicide. Too bad her suicide was a fake.
**Update** Charles Giles, a resident of Ocean County, New Jersey, has followed in Head’s footsteps. Giles was a firefighter for a private organization. He was indeed present at the scene, but safely on the outside, not trapped inside, as he insists. There are inconsistencies in his story about his rescue. He insisted a firefighter named Officer Mark Meyer saved him from the wreck. Giles is certain Meyer wore badge number 1236. Then after his account is challenged by Meyer himself, Giles concedes he might be mistaken. “To even tread on hallowed ground…is a terrible thing,” Meyer stated, referring to Giles’ lie. Bill Cox, a retired NYPD detective, insists that Meyer would have been offered a medal had Giles’ story been authentic. Giles has used the story to gain thousands of dollars in monetary donations. He too lied about his presence at Ground Zero. The pitiful need within otherwise banal, ordinary people, for attention at all costs, including the trauma of 9-1-1 survivors, continues.
However all is not lost. A man named Brian Clark who appears to be a genuine survivor of the terrorist attacks, has recounted his experience. So far, background checks have verified that he is telling the truth. Let’s hope so. The members of the Survivors Network are depending on it.