The Woman Who Wasn’t There


Given our ongoing mourning-by-proxy and industry of share-the-grief entertainments, it seems a desire to experience the events of September 11th firsthand—while comfortably surviving, of course—is not uncommon. “I think after 9/11, we all wanted to have a piece of it,” says one interviewee in The Woman Who Wasn’t There—though few went so far in self-associating with that day as survivor Tania Head, who channeled her pain into heading the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, where many friends recall Head recounting her fairy-tale courtship to her fiancée, Dave. Head also remembered helplessly watched Dave die in the North Tower from her vantage in South Tower’s 78th floor skylobby, where she survived the second plane’s impact, saved by “Man in the Red Bandana” Welles Crowther. Dave and Crowther were certainly real but, as established in a New York Times investigation, “Tania” was actually Alicia Esteve, daughter of a well-to-do Catalan family and a compulsive liar from early on who “idealized Americans.” Directed by Angelo Guglielmo, co-author of a newly-released book about Esteve’s deception, The Woman Who Wasn’t There plays like a by-the-numbers cable true-crime documentary—which in fact it is. The only question left unanswered: Why should we give any more attention to someone whose emotional-manipulation was driven by a thirst for it, especially since Esteve/Head, like most fantasists, is a tremendously boring woman.

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