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It's been 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11 changed the world forever, and two decades later the tragic stories of the events that unfolded on 9/11 still haunt us all.
But, one story that made headlines turned out to be a lie, fabricated by Tania Head who rose to fame in the aftermath of 9/11. For years, Tania maintained her elaborate story, adding details that eventually stopped adding up to those who had really survived the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Here, we take a look back at her story, and ask, where is Tania Head now?
What was Tania Head's story?
Tania claimed she had been chairing a meeting on the 78th floor of the South Tower when the first plane struck the North Tower at 8:46am. She described how her fiancé, Dave, worked as a consultant on the 100th floor of the North Tower, above the level the plane hit.
After the second plane hit the South Tower at 9:02am, Tania vividly described how her arm was almost-severed and badly burned as she tried to escape the flames and crawl to safety. She also said a man covered in rubble asked her to give his wedding ring to his wife, which she later claimed to have done.
According to her story, Tania woke up six days after 9/11 in a burns unit and was told her fiancé had died in the attacks. She quickly centred herself amongst the survivors sharing their stories with the media, and joined Gerry Bogacz's World Trade Center Survivors' Network.
In a message to the Survivors’ Network, Tania wrote: "I looked around and it was like a horror movie. People were mounted on top of each other, the smell of burned skin, and people’s insides, I was gagging. I kept thinking about my fiancé and about our wedding. I wanted to wear that white dress and swear my love for him."
Among the 500 survivors in the support group who shared their story, Tania's stood out. Despite her traumatic tale, Tania actively supported the survivor's group by preparing materials, hosting fundraisers, creating meeting agendas, and even using her own money to fund specialised trauma experts. Through her work, Tania also secured state funding for the Survivors’ Network, but as her story gained world-wide media attention, the details Tania added to her story stirred up suspicion from other survivors.
One survivor noted how her arm injury was not consistent with burns, while others questioned why she never brought her friends to support sessions. Despite their doubts, no one confronted Tania for fear of being rude or insensitive.
Who was Tania Head really?
Tania's lie unravelled after a New York Times investigation into her story. The article revealed how Tania did not work at the World Trade Center, and that she was not even in the US when the attacks happened.
Tania's real name in fact was Alicia Esteve Head. She was a Spanish native enrolled at the Esade Business School in Barcelona at the time of the attacks. She was the daughter of a wealthy Spanish family, and enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Mallorca.
Her supposed fiancé, Dave, on the other hand was real, and did sadly pass away in the attacks. But, his family confirmed he did not have a relationship with, nor did he ever meet, Alicia.
As details of her elaborate story unfolded, survivors discussed how they felt conflicted by her deception. Although horrified by her lies, those in the Survivors’ Network couldn't dismiss what she had helped them achieve.
"I’m very torn," survivor Carrie Coen Sullivan explained in a Channel 4 documentary, "She did a lot of good for our network. It’s hard to discredit it all. But she didn’t have to lie. She could have done those things without needing to lie."
Where is Tania Head now?
After her lie was exposed, Alicia all but vanished from the public eye and has not been seen in over a decade. Spanish newspaper, El Pais, reports that she is still registered as living at her home in Barcelona, although this has not been confirmed.
In their own investigation, The Independent revealed they were unable to "verify a Linkedin profile for Alicia Esteve Head that appears to match her biography and claims she is still working at the Esade Business School and living in New York."
"The Esade Business School did not respond to requests about whether she was working there," The Independent reported.
Her whereabouts remain unknown.
Tania Head: The Woman Who Wasn't There, is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
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