Who is ‘The Dust Lady’?
There were many indelible images burned into our memories on September 11, 2001. For me, this picture said it all. Who is the woman in this picture? What was she doing that day? Did she make it out alive?
The woman in the picture is Marcy Borders, an administrative assistant at a bank branch on the 81st floor of the north tower which was hit by the first passenger jet.
She was late to her job that day and had just gotten to her desk when the first plane hit. She ignored her boss who ordered everyone to remain calm and stay at their desks. She said she fought her way out of the building and wandered out on to the street, looked up and was paralyzed by what she saw. She said that there were people everywhere. She said what she saw was something that was “Too much for one to witness.”
Before she had time to process what was going on, the building fell. Concrete, dust and ash rained down on her and a cloud of debris came whooshing down the street. She said, “I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. The world went silent.” Wandering around in a daze, she was led to safety from the chaos and debris cloud by someone who just took her hand and it was then that this picture was snapped by Associated Press photographer Stan Honda. Named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 Most Powerful Images, it was splashed across news websites, news papers and magazines in the days following the attacks and Marcy was dubbed “The Dust Lady”.
Though Marcy has no recollection of the picture being taken, after September 11, she says that her life “became a garbage can.” She became addicted to drugs and alcohol and had her children taken away. She says she couldn’t sleep because she kept reliving that day and she was haunted by Osama bin laden and she was always afraid of him. She saw him in her nightmares and thought about being caught in another attack and wondered if “they” would come for her and she decided she didn’t want to live anymore.
In April of 2011, she cried out for help and the answer came from The Sunrise House Foundation in her native New Jersey. Marcy says she was on a long waiting list and didn’t have the money to pay for it, but was taken in and shortly after she entered rehab, news broke that Seal Team 6 had invaded a compound in Pakistan and that we had killed Osama bin Laden.
Marcy says that the treatment got her sober, but the death of bin Laden, “was a bonus.” Marcy left rehab on May 20. She moved back into her home and regained custody of her two kids.
Though that day was one of her worst, behind her tattered sofa in her small New Jersey apartment is a plastic bag that contains the dusty clothing she wore that day.