Tania Head: A Myth Sold and Bought

27Sep07

In the days after 9/11, indeed within hours of the event, relief organizations, both charitable and federal began mobilizing, moving money, developing recovery plans and providing relief. I recall a time of unparalleled charity across all cultures and borders. People gave blood in considerable numbers, although it was not to be an event that would flood the hospitals with wounded. Washington State Troopers described that day, and the following days as the most considerate they’d ever seen, in terms of people’s behavior while behind the wheel. Without question, doing good things, like helping the recovery, donating time, money or blood, or just waving someone into the following distance you just established, was the outward reaction of most people after 9/11.

Tania Head, it seems, was busy constructing and telling lies. Her story of being burned and rescued by an eventual victim of the falling Towers was of mythical origin. It was the perfect story, one that landed her an executive position at World Trade Center Survivors Network. Six years later, the New York Times called bullshit. No part of her story can be confirmed. The story is, in a different sense, mythical; it never happened.

What can we make of this?

To find some kind of useful pattern, the story must be broken down into its essential elements. The inspiration, propagation, initial acceptance, review and the final and current stage, rejection. For the inspiration, Tania Head deserves all the credit. The details of a traumatic event often get smeared in minds of people. Facts are lost, and filled in by memories. Individual oral histories are traditionally, in my field of study, subject to extreme scrutiny for this exact reason. As a rule, one person telling a story is a myth. It takes hundreds of people telling a similar story to create a perception, and a separate similar perception to begin to form a “fact.” Tania Head simply told a lie. Making Tania the President of a relief organization and acceptance of her story took people acting without reason, solely upon trust in her myth, her concoction, her lie.

I’m inclined to conclude that both acts beyond reason were natural, jabbing a knife into the Humanist in me. But I’m not so arrogant as to think I am above the human herd. It can sometimes take time to move beyond the emotion, and review evidence with clarity, and for skepticism to become appropriate within the interpersonal exchanges around the event. This skepticism, when applied with enough reason, will precipitate the final stage.

As it stands now, Tania’s myth has collapsed. Brought down by investigation, reasonable inquiry, and candid disclosure of a conclusion. Perhaps the evolution of Tania’s story will inspire more honest inquiry. In six more years, it is wonderful to think that any myths we live with today will have toppled under the weight of sound reasoning and careful review.

Six years later, there is little need for immediate relief. Organizations have moved on, to the tsunami in Sri Lanka and Thailand, to Katrina, or whatever the flavor of the month is. But the desire to do good should still remain around all of these events. Today, the only good the US Government would have you believe that is coming out of 9/11 is the new campaign called the War on Terror. A campaign in which US dollars are sent overseas to secure liberty and freedom for everyone, whether they want it or not. A growing number of people seem to feel otherwise, and feel they are doing good things in reviewing our once universal acceptance of a story as fact.

On a closing note, I can say that no event, large or small, has remained as originally told. No first draft of history stands the test brought with time and hind-sight. 9/11 will be no different.

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