cover image The Woman Who Wasn’t There

The Woman Who Wasn’t There

Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo. Touchstone, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4516-5208-6

Tania Head is one of the most famous September 11 survivors, with an amazing story of perseverance. After escaping the 96th floor of the South Tower and suffering the loss of her fiancé in the North Tower, she helped found the highly influential World Trade Center Survivor Network. But her account, and even her name, turned out to be a complete fabrication when Head is found to be a delusional, pathological liar. In this disturbing, riveting reporting of Head’s tenure as the face of the survivor movement, Fisher (After the Fire) and Guglielmo (a filmmaker) depict a woman who inspires anger and heartbreak but also admiration. Head first appears in 2003, sharing her story with an online support group for survivors. At the time, everyone other than first responders and families of the dead are overlooked; survivors are never allowed private access at the site, given scant attention from the media, and their families, friends, employers, and doctors have little understanding of their grief and guilt. Head, aided by her incredible account and a seemingly indomitable spirit, successfully transforms the network of survivors from a nonentity to one that becomes a very visible force with a say in countless matters pertaining to the World Trade Center. It’s only in 2007, on the eve of the sixth anniversary, after the New York Times decides to profile her, that Head and her story unravel. A documentary made by Guglielmo about Head will debut on television later this year. (Apr.)