Photo Of The Day

Photo: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images. This photo shows Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York City. Borders was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area.

Photo: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images.
This photo shows Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York City. Borders was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area.

?The Woman Who was Covered in Dust

Who Didn?t Know What To Do?

Her ghostly image is one of the most enduring from?9/11, though Marcy Borders, then a 28-year-old bank worker, does not even recall it being taken. Around the world, ?the dust lady? was seen as the face of survival and escape from the hell of the Twin Towers. But that was the last thing that Miss Borders felt as the trauma plunged her into a downward spiral of depression, drugs and drink. ?I did not feel like a survivor, I was a victim,? she says. ?I felt like I had lost my life that day.?

Marcy Borders, from New Jersey, had started work just four weeks earlier on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center?s North Tower and was standing at the photocopier at 8.47am when the first hijacked plane smashed into the building a few storeys higher, knocking her off her feet.

She ignored a supervisor?s message to staff to wait for fire marshals and joined the stream of workers fleeing down the stairwell.

Three minutes after she got out of the building, the South Tower fell. ?The smoke caught me and threw me on all fours,?

I breathed in and my mouth was coated. It was so quiet, like everyone in the world was checking to see if they were still alive. I couldn?t see my hand in front of me.

?I was saying, ?I don?t wanna die,? when this shirtless guy put me inside a building. I never saw him again and I want to thank him for saving my life. It was at that point that ?the picture? was taken.? Eventually Marcy walked uptown, then got back to Bayonne by ferry, that evening. ?I thought we would die, that the boat would be hit by a missile,? she said.

The first Marcy knew about the picture was the next day when a friend of her mother?s called, saying she had seen it.

Borders asked her mother how she knew it was her: ?It?s your nose,? Marcys? mother said.

?I was in newspapers all over the world, even Arabic ones?I started to think Osama bin Laden would come after me,?

?I was just thinking crazy. The picture made me angry at first. Didn?t the photographer think about helping me? How could I be famous, but still poor? They called me ?the dust lady?. I didn?t like that: it would be better to have said ?the woman who was covered in dust who didn?t know what to do?. People dressed up as ?the dust lady? at Halloween, which upset me.?

The horror of what she experienced was compounded by the photograph of her, taken by Stan Honda of the news agency AFP, which she says has served as a constant reminder of what she went through. ?I just couldn?t cope,? she says.

?The alcohol made me numb, the drugs got me high. Every time I saw an airplane, I thought there would be another attack. I could not get that day out of my mind.?

After September 11th I lost about a third of my weight in six months. ‘I drank a lot and never went out. It haunted me every day.

‘I was so paranoid that if I heard a car backfire, I would scream in the middle of the street.’ ‘My life spiraled out of control. I didn?t do a day?s work in nearly ten years, and by 2011, I was a complete mess.

‘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.

‘I started drinking heavily. Then I started drinking a lot more. I couldn?t handle life so I started taking drugs.

‘I started smoking crack cocaine, because I didn?t want to live.’

‘I had given up on myself – stopped washing myself. I didn?t recognize myself when I looked in the mirror,’

‘I had gone down to about 80lbs, just skin and bones.’

‘I was so selfish, and my kids were taken away to my mom and aunt,’ she says, fighting back tears.

‘I was trying to kill myself with drugs, which was so selfish.

‘I think my life became a garbage can, I was taking pills, crack, everything and anything I could get my hands on. I didn?t get to heroin but who knows where I was going. It wouldn?t have been long, perhaps

As a result of her addictions, she lost custody of her two children and separated from her partner of 14 years.

In 2011, she checked into a rehabilitation clinic where, just eight days later, she heard of the killing of Osama bin Laden; news that marked the start of her turnaround. ?It really did help me find some closure,? she says. She rediscovered her Baptist faith and got ?clean and sober? for four months ? ?my best 120 days since 9/11?. In June, she moved back in with her partner and children.

Marcy said she was just getting back into the working world — helping with a candidate’s local campaign for mayor in 2014 — when her doctor told her in late August that she had stomach cancer.

Marcy stayed clean of drugs, and to treat her cancer had, had chemotherapy. Surgery was to follow, then radiation and more chemo. She could not afford the $190,000 in medical bills she had racked up and said she could not even afford to get her prescriptions filled. Marcy died from cancer August 24, 2015.

Marcy Borders death came far too early, its only thin consolation that Borders may now hopefully rest in peace.

As the first tower collapsed, Stan Honda was in lower Manhattan amid people ‘who seemed to be walking in a daze.’

?In the early morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was alerted by Henny Abrams, an AFP photo stringer, that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

I got on the subway line near my apartment which goes to Lower Manhattan. I got out at the last stop, which is City Hall.

Above ground there were hundreds of people on the street looking at the WTC twin towers, now both towers were in flames.

I had missed the news of the second plane crash so I didn’t know what had happened. As I ran towards the buildings, thousands of people were running in the opposite direction, towards me and away from the WTC area.

I stopped to shoot one of the towers and it began to splinter and break apart.

There was a giant roar, like a train, and between the buildings I could see huge clouds of smoke and dust billowing out.

People were running from the cloud, trying to out race it.

This was the collapse of the first tower.

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.

I saw a man in a suit walking through the dust and rubble. I took several shots of him before going in another direction. Later, when I looked at the photo, I noticed he was still carrying his briefcase, which was covered in dust like him.

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.

The man was Ed Fine, an independent financial consultant who had an early appointment in one of the WTC towers. Fortune Magazine used the photo on its cover, he saw the magazine and called their editor to introduce himself. The magazine had been trying, with no luck, to find the man in the photos. I got a call from Fortune asking me to photograph Ed at his New Jersey home for a follow up story.

Aside from the horrible experience of covering the attacks on the WTC, it was amazing to meet the two 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.

Stan Honda

Marcy Borders Was Much More Than 9/11?s ?Dust Lady?

AFP photographers recount 9/11: ‘The Dust Lady’ and the man in the lucky suit

40%
×