Smoking Hole Survival Stories, North & South

That is my personal freaking shadow at lower left, dude. I used to work in that freaking building.

As for her educational background, she has told people that she has an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a graduate business degree from Stanford, though officials at both universities said they could not find records of a student by her name.

Paper finds big holes in woman’s tales of surviving 9/11: USA Today adds a little value to a competing paper’s reporting by doing a bit of cache-crawling — and cutting to the chase.

Forward to The F. Scott Fitzgerald Foundation for the Study of American Self-Invention — I just made that up, by the way — and the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

I first read this story on the Terra news portal in Brazil, which recreates the woman’s entire story in at least a dozen paragraphs of breathless narrative build-up before arriving at the dramatic reversal, or anagnorisis:

Mas informações recentes determinam que parte alguma de sua história pode ser corroborada.

Oh, okay, I see now: Terra’s was a straight translation of the New York Times story.

“Not one single part of her story can be corroborated.”

Merrill Lynch, for whom she says she worked, says it never had an employee by that name working there at the time in question, for example.

USA Today, on the other hand, gets to the gist of the story, inverted-pyramid style, in the third paragraph, with only a minimum of dramatic build-up.

Which I prefer. Because, although the Times headline does tip you off to what is coming, who has time to read a dozen paragraphs or so of lies?

The value of the narrative lede here is almost purely theatrical.


Just give me the gist upfront and save the histrionic details for later. I am a busy man.

The Survivors’ Network dumped Head as president after it learned about the Times story. Her name no longer appears on the group’s list of officers, but a cached version includes this biography:

Tania Head is a Senior Vice-President for Strategic Alliances for an investment Think Tank. On September 11, she was working for a client whose offices where located on the upper floors of the South Tower. Her fiancee worked across the plaza in the North Tower. Tania sustained life threatening injuries and barely escaped with her life. But her fiancee was one of the many lost that day. Despite painful injuries, Tania has been a tireless advocate for survivors and family members, and also feels a special mission to help victims of other disasters. She went to Thailand to help after the tsunami and to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. She speaks to many groups across the country, and is an active supporter of emergency plans in the workplace. Tania also lends her time to serve as Chairman of the 9/11 Living Memorial Survivors’ Committee, the board of a foundation set up in her fiancées memory, and the board of the WTC Widows Social Group. In 2003 and 2004 Tania taught financial planning workshops for fellow September 11 widows, and last year was recognized by her Alma Mater with an Achievement Award for her contribution to her profession and community. She also collaborates with and leads numerous tours for the WTC Tribute Center. Tania is a co-founder of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, and currently serves as its President.

The woman was a professional shock, awe and disaster-milker and photo-op hugger of insanely tragic, good-cause poster children.

And it took six years for this legend in her own Head to get fact-checked?

I also found this, from a speaker’s biography handout for “Respect, Reflect, and Remember Day.”

 Tania Head has served as a finance executive for more than ten years acquiring both operating and private equity investing experience.  She has worked for some of the world’s leading financial enterprises in such diverse countries as the United States, United Kingdom, Argentina, France, Singapore, and the The Netherlands, where she gained first-hand insight in global capital markets.

Her attorney, who has no comment on the veracity of her self-portrayal all these years:

STEPHANIE FURGANG ADWAR is a founding partner of Furgang & Adwar. She concentrates her practice in entertainment, trademark, copyright, and unfair competition law. She is a graduate (Juris Doctor) of Yeshiva University, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (January, 1991). She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (1987) in Film and Television Production from New York University – Tisch School of Arts, and is currently pursuing a degree in engineering.

Tania is represented by an entertainment industry lawyer? Weird.

Here in São Paulo, you saw similar tales emerging from the Great Smoking Hole of Pinheiros incident in January of this year — which, though it killed only 7 persons, rather than 3,000 , was gabbling dubbed by some in the local press as “São Paulo’s 9/11.”

Until the TAM Airbus disaster at Congonhas came along, killing 200.

At which point that became “São Paulo’s 9/11.”

Which pissed me off no end.

Wake me when the death toll hits at least 10% of what we New Yorkers experienced, you bozos.

Because personally, as I reckoned later — but which line was I on? I forget. The C, I think. Or was it the F? — I was probably riding the subway right under the WTC when the first plane hit, coming home from the current girlfriend’s house in Little Italy.

I do vividly remember that I got off to transfer to the G train at Smith & 9th in Brooklyn, noticed a commotion on the other end of the elevated platform, and went over to see what was up.

Lined up along the fence with all the other muttering gawkers, I saw a big smoking hole in the side of the tower, and I thought, (1) “Damn, somebody really, really screwed the pooch,” and (2) “Wow, this is really going to screw up my plans for the week.”

Just then, the other plane came in.


This, at least, really happened.

Later that day, I found myself blubbering over the phone at this old girlfriend of mine that weeks earlier I had decided I did not even like very much.

“Jesus, I am so glad you are alive!” I was blubbering.

One of the things I really did not like about the woman, in fact, was that she was constantly extremely late when we made plans to meet.

She was working in one of the towers that day and, as it happens — mirabile dictu — was late as usual getting to work.

She had, she told me, popped her head out the subway station, immediately perceived that scenes of hot, smoking chaos were playing out, and jumped back on the subway.

The woman was rude, but she was not freaking stupid.

And amazingly, and happily for a lot of people that day, the subway system was still running at that point.

Now, during the flap over the Great Smoking Hole here, as I read in the Estado de S. Paulo at the time, a woman who had served as an alternate city alderwoman a decade earlier — appointed by the winning slate in a proportional election, mind you, not having received a single vote in her life — was going around to funerals of the victims, flashing old business cards and claiming to represent the current governor, Mr. Serra.

And other, similar, tales of ghoulish nonsense along those lines.


The nom de guerre of Patty Hearst.


A movie featuring those irrepressible Monkees.

Is that really the woman’s name?

Likewise, was the New York Post copy editor fired for inserting slanted language into other people’s copy really named Dawn Eden?

And compare the curiously ambiguous ontological status of one Daniel Duende.

A putative Brazilian tech-blogger whose name — I know no Brazilians named this, myself — means “gnome, elf, fairy.”

Cited by a PBS journalist as an actual person.


A life.

You gabbling.



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