Marcy Borders, whose yellow dust-covered photo served as a disturbing image emblematic of the post Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has died of cancer. Borders was 42.
Writes the Huffington Post, via MSN news on Aug. 25: “Borders’ family announced her death Tuesday on Facebook. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year at the age of 41. The photo of Borders, taken by AFP photographer Stan Honda as the attacks on the Twin Towers unfolded, has endured as a haunting reminder of the chaos and horror of Sept. 11.”
Borders, from Bayonne, New Jersey, was 28 years old at the time of the attacks, and was working at Bank of America up on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. When American Airlines Flight 11 hit, Borders fled down the stairs – against the orders of her supervisor. When she emerged, she was encapsulated in dust and debris, but was alive.
During the ten year anniversary of the attack, Borders spoke to the New York Post. She said that she has kept the clothes she was wearing, putting them into a sealed plastic bag, but has never once looked at them. “I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face,” she said in 2011. “The world went silent.”
Photographer Stan Honda recounted the moment he took the photo. The shot – Borders almost mummified in dust, her mouth agape – is one of the most recognizable images to emerge from the attacks. The photo was named one of Time Magazine’s most 25 most powerful images.
“I was near a building lobby and a police officer was pulling people into the entrance to get them out of the danger,” Honda recounted. “I went in and the 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.”
Marcy, who struggled with depression and drug addiction in the years following the attack, said: “Hundreds of people were trying to get out. My stairwell was badly damaged and we had to move stairwells, I was convinced we were going to die. I’m so glad I had the strength to get to the bottom. There were wounded and the injured, it was too much for one to witness.
I saw people with things sticking out of them, covered head to toe in blood. I couldn’t understand it. What I saw was carnage, and I thought, ‘God, I’m going to die anyway. ~Marcy Borders
Borders previously said that she believes her cancer was linked to the attack. “I’m saying to myself, ‘Did this thing ignite cancer cells in me?’” she said at the time. “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?”
Adds MSN: “The number of cancer cases linked to Sept. 11 has grown in recent years. As of May 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 4,000 first responders, rescue workers and survivors who have been diagnosed with cancer linked to the attacks. According to the CDC, skin cancer, prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are among the most common illnesses among those individuals.”