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'Dust Lady' in Iconic 9/11 Photo Dies of Cancer

  • VOA News

FILE - Marcy Borders is covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed when commercial planes crashed into them in New York, Sept. 11, 2001. Borders died of stomach cancer, Aug. 26, 2015.

FILE - Marcy Borders is covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed when commercial planes crashed into them in New York, Sept. 11, 2001. Borders died of stomach cancer, Aug. 26, 2015.

The woman who appeared in an iconic photo as a dust-covered survivor of the 9/11 terror attacks died of stomach cancer, her family announced in Facebook posts.

Marcy Borders, 42, a mother of two, from Bayonne, New Jersey, died Monday.

In a Facebook post, Borders' brother Michael wrote: "I can't believe my sister is gone."

In a post on Twitter, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said: "Marcy Borders' passing is a difficult reminder of the tragedy our city suffered nearly 14 years ago. NYC holds her loved ones in our hearts."

In 2001, Borders worked for Bank of America on the 81st floor of 1 World Trade Center.

After the planes hit, she defied instructions from her boss to stay put and fled down the stairs and into the lobby of an adjacent building.

'Dust lady'

Borders became known as the "dust lady" after Stan Honda, a photographer for the French news agency AFP, took her picture, showing her covered in a thick layer of ash. Honda said he took Borders' photo after the first tower had collapsed.

After the attacks, Borders struggled for years with depression and alcohol and drug abuse.

Borders, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in August 2014, told the Jersey Journal she believed the cancer was a result of her exposure to toxins in 2001.

"I definitely believe it because I haven't had any illnesses," she said. "I don't have high blood pressure ... high cholesterol, diabetes."

FILE - With the skeleton of the World Trade Center twin towers in the background, New York City firefighters work amid debris on Cortlandt Street after the terrorist attacks, Sept. 11, 2001.

FILE - With the skeleton of the World Trade Center twin towers in the background, New York City firefighters work amid debris on Cortlandt Street after the terrorist attacks, Sept. 11, 2001.

​Borders' death isn't the first time questions have been raised regarding a link between survivors' health and the toxins released when the Twin Towers collapsed.

On Sept. 22, 2014, three firefighters who were on duty at Ground Zero during the 9/11 attacks and clean-up died of cancer within hours of each other.

However, a 2012 New York City Department of Health study found no clear link between cancer and the dust and fumes released in the destruction of the World Trade Center towers.

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaida-linked terrorists slammed two of four hijacked planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks.

FILE - People run from a cloud of debris from the collapse of a World Trade Center tower in New York, Sept. 11, 2001.

FILE - People run from a cloud of debris from the collapse of a World Trade Center tower in New York, Sept. 11, 2001.

Photographer's memories

Honda recalled taking Borders' photo in a posting on his Facebook page on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

He said he photographed the first tower "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," Honda added, saying he ducked into the lobby of a building to get out of danger.

"A woman came in [to the building] 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," he wrote.

Some material for this report came from AFP.

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