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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception

I am fascinated by the people who claimed to be 9/11 survivors but who were not--at all. Why would you say such a thing? What would motivate you? The question with which I started Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr.'s The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception was: How could you live with yourself?

Tania Head had an incredible story of surviving on 9/11--and losing her beloved fiance. The met cute in a cab one day leaving the WTC, fell in love, and secretly married in Hawaii right before that fateful day. Tania held herself responsible for his death--if she had agreed to meet him for coffee they might have both made it out in time. Tania headed up the Survivor's Network and was a media hound with her story until one day around the sixth anniversary when a New York Times reporter started asking too many questions. Why didTania refuse to share her fiance's last name? Why did she refuse to confirm her alma mater? Or provide evidence of where she worked?

I was astounded by this story. I remember reading about it a few years ago and thinking about how awful a person must be to make this up. We all know magnetic people in our lives--people who, if you were giving advice to a friend in a similar situation, you would encourage them to cut ties. It appears that Tania was one of these people. Magnetic and vulnerable, and someone who makes those around her turn into a puddle of jelly to help her. I get that her story was so fantastical that no one questioned it; it seems like every survivor's story that day is one of beating the odds.

My only complaint with this book is that I felt it ended too abruptly. I was with it the whole way through, but the end comes together too quickly and ends suddenly. I imagine this is how the fellow survivors felt when Tania's story came out--as if they slammed into a brick wall. I would have liked to explore some of the aftermath.

This was a quick read and I was invested in the story. One of the authors (Guglielmo) knew Tania personally and was pulled into her orbit. His documentary of the same name is on my list to watch; it contains Tania telling her "story" in a film that she pushed before she was revealed.


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