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Marcy Borders: The Tragic Tale of “Dust Lady” and Other 9/11 Survivors Who Developed Fatal Health Problems

EEven among the million photographs taken on one of the most devastating days of the 21st century, it is an image endowed with unusual power. Immediately after the collapse of the south tower of the World Trade Center, a woman staggers from the street to an office building, covered in dust. His face is caught somewhere between empty shock and sharp pain. From head to toe, it has been powdered white with sprayed concrete and cement.

This is Marcy Borders, who had just started a new job at Bank of America. Against her manager’s advice, she rushed down the street in lower Manhattan just before the North Tower collapsed and was quickly covered from head to toe in her remains.

As captured by photographer Stan Honda, who roamed the streets that day, she became known as the “Dust Lady”. This name has remained in public memory just as much as the photo itself, but it did little justice to the heartbreaking image or life of the woman it portrays – let alone the thousands of people who, like Ms. Borders, were exposed to the 9/11 wreckage in a way that ruined their health for years to come.

For Honda itself, the legacy of the image remains strange. “Over the years, it’s been strange for me to think I had a photo with a legacy,” he says. “I have studied many photographers who have very famous images and I never thought I could have an image like this. I think since Marcy Borders photo is of one person trying to deal with the chaos of that day, people can relate to that.

The life story of Mrs. Borders after the attacks, too, is relatable – not in spite of its drama, but because of it.

Speaking to New York Post In 2011, shortly after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan by the US Navy SEALs, Ms Borders described how the terror of the day gave way to 10 years of depression and addiction. “It was like my soul had been knocked down with these towers,” she said.

“My life has gotten out of hand. I haven’t done a single day of work in almost 10 years, and in 2011 I was a complete mess. Every time I saw an airplane, I panicked. If I saw a man on a building, I was convinced he was going to shoot me.

It wasn’t until she lost custody of her two children that she enrolled in drug rehab for a desperate crack addiction. “I started smoking crack because I didn’t want to live,” she told the To post.

Ms Borders died of cancer which she said could have been caused by the dust she was covered with on September 11

Borders appeared to be making a full recovery – but four years later she died of stomach cancer, an illness she herself believed to be from the carcinogenic dust and smoke she had been sprayed in the photo from Honda.

“I’m like, ‘Did this thing ignite cancer cells in me?’” She told the Jersey Journal. “I really 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? “

Borders wasn’t the only one wondering if she was a victim of that day both physiologically and psychologically. In fact, the death toll from the disaster in New York is in the hundreds, if not thousands, higher than the estimated 3,000 for the day itself – and it continues to rise.

The health implications of the World Trade Center collapse became a concern immediately after the towers fell. And high on the agenda were the first responders who attended the scene during and after the attack, breathing dust and particulate-laden air from collapsed and burned buildings in lower Manhattan. . Many of them were traumatized by what they went through. Thus began a 20-year saga of medical investigations, legislative elbow grease and public outcry that continues to this day.

The serious health risks caused by the steaming wreckage of Ground Zero set off alarms immediately after the towers fell, and the George W Bush administration was quickly under pressure to provide first responders facing chronic conditions and potentially fatal. He has also been the subject of sharp criticism for his perceived slowness in acting and his refusal to recognize the seriousness of the risk. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency was tasked with telling New Yorkers that the air around “the pile” was safe.

One of the administration’s most furious critics at the time was then New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who made the 9/11 response her top priority from the start. The site’s health risks and their cover-up by the federal government left her “outraged,” she said during an audio-recorded event in 2003. “Immediately after, for the first few days, no one could the knowledge. But a week later? Two weeks later? Two months later? Six months later? Leave me alone!”

One of the other New York politicians leading the charge from the start is Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, whose district covers part of the city in three boroughs. She continues to keep up the pressure to properly fund 9/11 victim assistance – and has started wearing a fire jacket as she pushes legislation that would secure funding for decades to come. Today, she tries to remain aware of the real toll of the disaster.

“We lost almost 3,000 people on September 11,” she said. The independent, “And in the nearly 20 years since the attack, the death toll continues to climb.

“As we celebrate 20 years of that fateful day in 2001, we must remember that September 11 is not just a thing of the past. It is something these responders, survivors and their families live with every day as they deal with their cancers, respiratory issues and the many other physical and mental health challenges caused by September 11th.

“As a nation, we have a moral obligation to take care of the people who took care of us and those who take care of them.”

The men and women Ms. Maloney describes are widely regarded as heroes for their work on behalf of New Yorkers and Americans – people like Ms. Borders, who themselves have been exposed to the toxic fallout from the devastation of the World Trade Center, and research into what causes them. happened as a result continues today.

In June alone, a special issue of International Journal of Environmental and Public Health Research brought together the latest research conducted under the auspices of the WTC Health Program. The extent of the risks it covers speaks volumes: From cognitive impairment and self-medication with alcohol to cancer and lung disease, the thousands of people at close range face serious problems. for years, and some are just starting to emerge. seriously today.

At the center of it all are individuals – and among the survivors is the convict Marcy Borders whose image stands out. As the 20th anniversary of his photo draws near, Mr. Honda is wary of what that really means. “People might think the photo puts a human scale on the horrific events of the day. I’m proud to have taken this photo and others, but if the attacks had never happened, that would be great. It would result in much less suffering. “


The Independent Gt