Last month, Marcy Borders died at the age of 42 after a battle with stomach cancer. Borders, from Bayonne, New Jersey, had risen to worldwide fame after Getty photographer Stan Honda captured a photo of her fleeing the World Trade Center on 9/11 moments after the South Tower had collapsed.
Borders, who was 28 at the time and had recently begun a new job with Bank of America on the 81st floor of the North Tower, was covered in dust from the pulverized skyscraper.
Her place in American culture, as her nickname, “The Dust Lady,” demonstrated, was defined by that iconic image. But beneath that dust was a real woman — a mother, daughter, niece. Borders gave interviews about her ordeal over the years, but the image of her as The Dust Lady followed her until her death in August, which made international headlines.
Above, take a look at some photos of Borders’ life and times after the dust, and see a woman who lived life in the company of loved ones, including her 22-year-old daughter, Noelle Borders.
Noelle wrote about her late mother in poignant posts on her Facebook page this week as the fourteenth anniversary of 9/11 approached. The first post, made Wednesday, showed two photos reposted from Noelle’s Instagram account, along with the words, “My mom would say your my favorite daughter I’m like duh I’m your only daughter ?#?thenandnow? nothing ever change.”
On Thursday, in a posted tagged “feeling heartbroken,” Noelle wrote, “A lot of things would be different if you were here a lot of things I wanna tell you, but I know for a fact you are listening I love you forever mom.”
In the below video interview with Mike McGregor, recorded around the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Borders gives a chilling account of the surreal events of that day, the hopeless feeling of seeing people leaping from the floors above hers and how she ended up making it out of the catastrophe alive. Borders tells about the harrowing moment that the South Tower collapsed and she was swallowed by the enormous dust cloud that engulfed lower Manhattan. “Every time I inhaled, my mouth filled up with it,” she said of the thick dust. “I was choking. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.”
After that traumatic experience, her life was never the same. “I didn’t do a day’s work in nearly 10 years, and by 2011 I was a complete mess,” she told The New York Post in a 2011 interview. She was scarred for life by her 9/11 experience. “Every time I saw an aircraft, I panicked.”
Borders battled demons including post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction in the wake of surviving the deadliest terror attack ever carried out on American soil. She was in and out of rehab and lost custody in 2011, and then later regained custody, of her two children, Noelle and Zay’den. Late last year, in an interview with The Jersey Journal, Borders revealed she was battling stomach cancer. In the throes of chemotherapy treatments, she allowed a photographer from The Jersey Journal to take pictures of her without her wig on.
She told The Jersey Journal that fighting cancer had caused her to rack up medical bills of nearly $200,000, which she was struggling to pay and she pondered whether her exposure to the elements on 9/11 may have triggered her cancer.
As The New York Post reported, there’s a chance Borders could be added to the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan and considered a homicide victim by the New York City medical examiner’s office. Her family would need to request that distinction and the medical examiner’s office would open an inquiry.
Despite her extraordinary trials and tribulations, Borders was optimistic to the end. “I try to take myself from being a victim to being a survivor now,” she told The Jersey Journal in last year’s interview. “I don’t want to be a victim anymore.”