September 30, 2023

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the September 11th World Trade Center attacks. For many this is not only a day of mourning but a day of remembrance for the first responders, victims, and survivors on that terrifying day.

Eighteen years later we have continued to witness the anguish, pain, and suffering in the aftermath of 9/11 admidst war, religious bigotry, and Americanism on full display in a manner that has set us too far back.

The many faces of September 11th remain etched in stone but one survivor’s story in particular teaches us a valuable lesson of just how far our country has to go.

Marcy Borders. Say her name.

Marcy was a Legal Assistant who worked at the Bank of America located in the World Trade Center and survived its collapse, following the al-Quaeda attacks on September 11, 2001. A photographer for Agence France Presse, captured an image of Borders, completely covered in dust from the building collapse, that subsequently became widely described as “iconic”. The image became so well known and so widely distributed, that Borders became known as “The Dust Lady”.

At the time Borders was 28 years old and a resident of Bayonne, New Jersey working as a Legal Assistant on the 81st floor inside of the North Tower.

At 8.46am, five al-Qaida hijackers slammed American Airlines flight 11 into the tower. It hit between the 93rd and 99th floors, just 12 stories above where Borders was sitting.

Miraculously she was able to scramble down the main staircase as hundreds of others attempted to evacuate and perished in the process.

As she reached the bottom the second tower had been struck and collapsed leaving a dust cloud that was large enough to be detected in outer space.

Her life and health would forever be changed. It was the beginning of the end for her life as she knew it.

Marcy Borders always found the memory of 9/11 difficult and vehemently blamed terrorists for the state of her being.

She suffered for years with emotional and mental trauma and was not made aware of the free mental health services and aid available to survivors.

A decade-long depression led to a break-up with her partner, the loss of custody of her children, and an addiction to alcohol and drugs. Borders said that a key event in her recovery and return to sobriety was learning of the death of Osama Bin Laden while in rehab.

In an interview she gave to the New York Post in 2011 she was candid about how low she sank.

“It was like my soul was knocked down with those towers. My life spiralled out of control. I didn’t do a day’s work in nearly 10 years, and I was a complete mess.”

In August 2014, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died a year later on August 24, 2015.

Marcy’s life is just one of many examples of the problems we have in America.

After the incident she lived without health insurance and unable to receive the care and treatment she so desperately needed.

If she was made aware of the mental health services available to survivors could she have prevented her suffering?

With the attribution of her cancer likely related to toxins inhaled during the 9/11 attacks with access to health care could her life have been saved?

Known carcinogens such as asbestos, glass fibers and silica, and some 4,753 people who were at Ground Zero have gone on to develop various forms of cancer.

The saddest reality is that for African Americans this is a common trajectory.

Less access to insurance and mental health coverage and a continuous generational suffering.

Today let’s take the time to remember Macy Borders and her surviving children Noelle and Zayden.

Her Black life mattered.

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