Who Was Marcy Borders? The 9/11 "Dust Lady" Fought Many Difficult Battles In Her Too-Short Life
During the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, a woman named Marcy Borders was pulled to safety in a building lobby in lower Manhattan, completely covered in gray dust. Photographer Stan Honda captured a photo of her at that moment, a photo that would go on to become one of the most iconic images of the events that transpired that day. Because of the photo, Borders famously became known as the "Dust Lady." However, after being diagnosed with stomach cancer in August 2014, Marcy Borders the "Dust Lady" died Monday night at 42 years old.
According to The Washington Post, the Bayonne, New Jersey, native had only recently begun working at Bank of America in the World Trade Center when the attacks took place. Borders was on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center when the first plane struck, but managed to escape, and it was at this time that Honda was able to take the famous "Dust Lady" shot. She told the New York Post back in 2011 that she ignored a boss' order to remain at her desk when the first plane struck, and when she emerged from the building — just as the second plane struck, covering her in dust — she was shocked to see "wounded and the injured" everywhere.
After 9/11, Borders told the Post that she became severely depressed, started smoking crack in subsequent years, separated from her partner of 14 years, and lost custody of her two children. But on April 23, 2011, she checked herself into rehab, saying that "I knew I'd be dead in weeks unless I did something." Then, eight days later, she learned that Osama bin Laden had been killed, which she said permitted her to find "peace of mind." "The treatment got me sober, but bin Laden being killed was a bonus," she told the Post.
Things started looking up for Borders after rehab. She moved back in with her partner, was able to get her kids back, "rediscovered her Baptist faith," and started working again. When Sept. 11, 2011 was around the corner, she told The Telegraph that she wasn't dreading the 10th anniversary of 9/11 despite having dreaded the previous nine. "This will be the first anniversary when I am living as a survivor, not a victim," she said at the time, adding that she avoided looking at the "Dust Lady" photo as much as possible. She also got an airplane to go to Germany for a television show marking the anniversary, even though she had spent years worrying about possible attacks every time she saw a plane.
But after working for more than a decade to heal, Borders received a stomach cancer diagnosis last August, according to The Jersey Journal. She told the Journal in the months following the diagnosis that she had undergone chemotherapy, and she wondered if her cancer was connected to 9/11.
I'm saying to myself "Did this thing ignite cancer cells in me?" I definitely believe it because I haven't had any illnesses. I don't have high blood pressure ... high cholesterol, diabetes. How do you go from being healthy to waking up the next day with cancer?
After a year of treatment, Borders passed away Monday night. Talking to the New York Post, her daughter, Noelle — with whom she was able to reconnect following her time in rehab — took a moment to honor her.
My mom fought an amazing battle. Not only is she the "Dust Lady" but she is my hero and she will forever live through me.
Her cousin, John Borders, took to Facebook following her death. He called his cousin a "hero" who had "unfortunately succumbed to the diseases that has ridden her body since 9/11."
In addition to losing so many friends, co-workers and colleagues on and after that tragic day ... the pains from yesteryear have found a way to resurface.
Borders fought a hard battle in the years since 9/11, and although her life was too short, she was able to overcome the many challenges she faced and came to perceive herself as a survivor — and that is how we should remember her.