Marcy Borders — known as the "Dust Lady" after she was photographed fleeing the World Trade Center covered in a white powder during the 9/11 attacks — has died after a yearlong battle with stomach cancer, her family said.
The image of Borders — a then-Bank of America worker who was 28 at the time — was taken by AFP photographer Stan Honda during the chaos following the attacks and became one of the iconic images from that day.
The 42-year-old's daughter, Noelle, told the New York Post Tuesday: "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."
Other members of Borders' family also confirmed her death on Facebook yesterday. Her cousin John Borders called Marcy his "hero" and said she was "barely clinging to life" Monday.
In a later message in the thread posted early Tuesday, he confirmed her death: "my HERO and cousin Marcy Borders has unfortunately succumbed to the diseases that has ridden her body since 09/11 .. Thank you all for your heartfelt wishes and concerns.... In addition to losing so many friends, coworkers , and colleagues on and after that tragic day.. The pains from yesteryear has found a way to resurface..."
Another cousin, Elnardo Borders, said, "My emotions are all over the place right now."
Her brother Michael also spoke of his disbelief on Tuesday.
The Bayonne, New Jersey, native was just one month into her job at the bank on Sept. 11, 2001, when a plane flew into the north tower, where she was working. Despite her boss ordering her to stay at her desk, she fled from the building and headed into the street. A stranger pulled her into a nearby building's lobby as the tower collapsed, and it was at that moment Honda captured his iconic picture, the New York Post said.
Honda gave his account of the story behind the image on AFP's Facebook page in 2011:
I was near a building lobby and a police officer was pulling people into the entrance to get them out of the danger. I went in and outside became black for a few minutes.
A woman came in completely covered in gray dust. You could tell she was nicely dressed for work and for a second she stood in the lobby. I took one shot of her before the police officer started to direct people up a set of stairs, thinking it would be safer off the ground level.
As the dust and smoke cleared I went back outside. It looked like it had snowed, everything was covered in dust, including people. It was very quiet. People seemed to be walking in a daze. I photographed rescue workers helping people to a city bus. A police officer bent over onto the trunk of a car to rest, coughing. ...
The woman turned out to be Marcy Borders, who had worked for Bank of America in one of the towers. She or a friend had called AFP's Washington office tell them that Marcy was the woman in the photo. Michel Moutot and I went to New Jersey about a week after the attack to interview her. ...
Aside from the horrible experience of covering the attacks on the WTC, it was amazing to meet the ... people in the photos I shot. We rarely meet the subjects in news photos like these and it was nice to know they both survived.
In the years following the attack, Borders struggled with depression and drug and alcohol addiction. She spoke about these struggles, as well as her cancer diagnosis during a November 2014 interview with the Jersey Journal.
She speculated that her being caught in the attacks may have contributed to her illness: "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?"
She added that, in the years following the attacks, she tried to not look at the photo as the beginning of her misfortunes: "I try to take myself from being a victim to being a survivor now. I don't want to be a victim anymore."
Francis Whittaker is a homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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