Documentary Shows Struggles of 9/11 Survivors
Tanya Villanueva Tepper was home painting her nails and getting ready to vote for the first time. Sept. 11, 2001, was primary day in New York City.
An attractive woman of German and Filipino descent, Tepper was also waiting for her fiance, Sergio Villanueva, to return from his 24-hour shift at his firehouse in Brooklyn.
“Big Daddy,” as the firefighter was known, never made it, dying that day in the terrible destruction of the World Trade Center towers.
Villanueva, who had spent eight years as a New York City policeman before becoming a fireman, had turned 33 on July 4 — a real Yankee Doodle Dandy, a man who loved his adopted country. Together he and Tepper owned a gift shop in Queens called Inner Peace. A website she created as a tribute to her “soul mate” after the tragedy has a picture of the good-looking Villanueva on his knees giving her the ring.
There is also a picture from September 1970 of Villanueva’s mother holding the Argentine native as a 2-year-old, when he first came to this country. In the background are the Twin Towers, which were still being built.
The stories of 9-11 are filled with such ironies, coincidences and sadness. Much of the hundreds of hours of television specials related to the 10th anniversary of the tragedy will be looking back, remembering or trying to make sense out the senseless. The documentary “Rebirth,” which airs on Showtime, charts the course of five people, including Tepper, and their efforts toward recovery. The film relies on the captivating, emotional and even poetic interviews of its subjects rather than narrators recounting the facts or images reliving the horrors of the day.