9/11 survivor 'Dust Lady' dies

The Sept 11, 2001, photo of Ms Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge after escaping from the collapsing Twin Towers. Ms Borders felt her cancer could be a result of the attacks.
The Sept 11, 2001, photo of Ms Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge after escaping from the collapsing Twin Towers. Ms Borders felt her cancer could be a result of the attacks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Woman in iconic photo dies of stomach cancer at age 42

WASHINGTON • A survivor of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on New York who was featured in one of its most iconic photographs has died of stomach cancer. She was 42.

Ms Marcia Borders, who was 28 at the time of the attacks, was just one month into a job for Bank of America in one of the Twin Towers.

As one of the towers collapsed, she took refuge in a nearby office building, where AFP photographer Stan Honda took a haunting photo of her completely covered in a thick layer of ash, which earned her the moniker of "The Dust Lady". The air appeared heavy and a distraught Ms Borders was shrouded in a cloud of dust and backlit by an eerie yellow luminescence.

She had been just a month into her new job on the 81st floor of the north tower when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the building, said The Guardian. Instead of remaining at her desk, as her supervisor had ordered, she fled from the office - ending up in the chaotic street, which was heaving with enormous clouds of dust and the hordes of walking wounded. A stranger pulled her into the lobby of another building just as the north tower came crashing down

"I was picking the junk off the desk, getting ready to start my day," Ms Borders said in a 2011 interview.

"That was when the plane hit. That's when the building started quaking and swaying. I lost all control, and I went into a frenzy. I fought my way out of that place," she told the Daily Mail .

Her family first announced her death, at the age of 42, on Facebook on Monday.

"I can't believe my sister is gone," her brother Michael Borders wrote, asking for people's prayers.

Her cousin Elnardo Borders wrote: "May God comfort us in our time of sorrow. My emotions are all over the place right now." He later wrote: "She @ peace now!!!"

After the attacks, Ms Borders spiralled into a decade-long deep depression and alcohol and drug abuse, though she eventually recovered after several years.

"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. "I was convinced Osama bin Laden was planning more attacks. Every time I saw an aircraft, I panicked. If I saw a man on a building, I was convinced he was going to shoot me."

She lost her job at Bank of America, where she ignored repeated offers of a transfer.

She spent much of her time in her two-room flat, isolated from other people, in one of the poorer parts of Bayonne, a bedroom community in New Jersey over the bridge from Manhattan.

Ms Borders told the Jersey Journal last year that she wondered whether her cancer could be attributed to the attack.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline '9/11 survivor 'Dust Lady' dies'. Print Edition | Subscribe