9/11 Survival Story Questioned

glor WTC woman
A nonprofit organization for 9/11 survivors removed its president after questions were raised about her harrowing account of how she survived but lost a loved one in the World Trade Center attack.

Tania Head has said that she was badly burned on the 78th floor of the south tower, that she was saved by a man who died trying to save others, and that a dying man handed her his inscribed wedding ring, which she later returned to his widow.

She also said her husband, or fiancé, died in the north tower.

CBS News has confirmed Head never worked inside the World Trade Center at Merrill Lynch, as she'd said, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor.

In fact, The New York Times reported Thursday that none of her claims had been verified.

So why did she do it?

"Often when (people) have something dramatic in their history that they can't deal with, (they) tell a story about themselves that they begin to believe," Nancy McWilliams, a psychologist at Rutgers University, told CBS News. "And it is told as a heart-felt story and comes through to other people as a true story."

Head has described her 9/11 experiences at speaking engagements and led Tribute WTC Visitor Center tours, and her account has appeared, among other places, on the Web site of the World Trade Center Survivors' Network.

The board of the nonprofit organization removed her as president and director this week.

"Tania Head is no longer associated with the World Trade Center Survivors' Network," according to a statement on the group's Web site. "Our organization was created so that those affected by the terrorist attacks could help each other through crisis and its aftermath."

"At this point, we are just left feeling angry and hurt and betrayed ... and sad," Survivors' Network member Richard Zimbler told CBS News.

Head also is no longer giving tours at the Tribute center. "At this time, we are unable to confirm the veracity of Tania Head's connection to the events of Sept. 11," said the center's CEO, Jennifer Adams.

Head has claimed she had a romantic relationship with a man who is a confirmed 9/11 victim, but the Times said his family and friends had never heard of Head and they discount details of her story.

No telephone listing exists for a Tania Head in New York City. A message left by The Associated Press at a local telephone number for an Alicia Head - a name the Times said Head had also used - was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The Times said Head canceled three interviews in recent weeks, citing her privacy and emotional turmoil, and declined to provide details to corroborate her story. She also told the newspaper she had done nothing illegal and had not filed any claim with the federal Victim Compensation Fund.

She earned no money as president of the survivors group or as a tour guide at ground zero, according to the Times.

There's no evidence she made money off her story - according to the Times she earned no money as Survivors' Network president and gave the tours for free.

But she certainly gained fame, reports Glor. Unfortunately, it's now the kind of fame no one wants.