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Marcy Borders, whose image became an enduring symbol of the September 11, 2001 attack was more than just a survivor; she was a testament to the human spirit’s resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity. Her story, like so many others from that fateful day, is one of both tragedy and triumph.

A Fateful Morning

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Marcy Borders, a 28-year-old Bank of America employee, was working on the 81st floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Little did she know that her life was about to change in ways she could never have imagined.

As the first plane struck, chaos ensued. As the building shook, Marcy and her coworkers found themselves trapped in a nightmarish scenario.

Marcy Borders Recalls Her 9/11 Experience

“My supervisor had thought maybe a small jet plane might have nept [the tower]. But at that time, we had no idea what was going on,” Borders explained in a film produced by Mike McGregor.

“So, then, I began to panic. They sat me down, told me to relax and to take deep breaths. But the way the building was shaking, I couldn’t sit there. To fill the building shake and you heard the explosion. You heard the rumble. You heard everything.”

Borders recalls seeing chairs coming out the office windows, along with office supplies and falling people. That’s when her and her coworkers escaped to a packed stairwell.

“You just heard people screaming to stay away from the glass.” You saw injured. I saw people with objects in them, burned skulls. It was crazy compared to what I just left. My stairwell was normal.”

“Every time I inhaled, my mouth just filled up with it. I was choking. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I was just saying to myself and saying out loud that I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to die,” she describes.

Remembering Marcy Borders, 22 years later
On September 11, 2001, Marcy Borders sought refuge in an office building, her form shrouded in dust, in the aftermath of the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers. | Photo by Stan Honda

In a moment of sheer terror, a coworker captured an image of Marcy, covered in dust and ashes, her face etched with fear, as she emerged from the chaos. That haunting photograph would come to symbolize the anguish and resilience of the 9/11 survivors.

“My image is known all over the world as ‘the dust lady’,” she said.

A Symbol of Resilience

In the aftermath of the attacks, Marcy Borders struggled to come to terms with the trauma she had endured. She battled post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, enduring a harrowing journey toward healing. Her story was a stark reminder that surviving a tragedy of this magnitude did not mean an end to suffering.

Over the years, Marcy fought valiantly to rebuild her life. She sought therapy, formed connections with fellow survivors, and worked tirelessly to regain her sense of self. Her journey was marked by ups and downs. Nevertheless, she remained committed to healing and overcoming the emotional scars left by that fateful day.

A Life Cut Short

Sadly, Marcy Borders’ story took a tragic turn. In 2015, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, likely caused by the dust she inhailed, a disease that would ultimately claim her life. However, her battle with cancer was yet another challenge she faced with courage and determination.

Borders daughter, Noelle, and son, Zayden, are the ones who continue to cherish her memory.

Marcy’s Legacy

Marcy Borders’ legacy extends beyond the iconic photograph that captured her in a moment of vulnerability and fear. She serves as a symbol of resilience, reminding us that even in the face of unimaginable tragedy, the human spirit can endure and rebuild. Her journey, though marked by pain and adversity, was a testament to the strength of the human will.

As we remember the events of September 11, 2001, and the nearly 3,000 lives lost that day, let us also remember Marcy Borders, a survivor whose story embodies the indomitable spirit of the human heart.

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...

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