Marcy Borders, survivor known as 'Dust Lady' in iconic 9/11 photo, dies at 42

Story highlights

  • Marcy Borders, 9/11 survivor recognized as the "Dust Lady," died Tuesday after a battle with stomach cancer
  • "We lost our very own hero," her cousin said

New York (CNN)Many remember the haunting photograph: A woman wearing business attire and pearls is covered head-to-toe in white dust, her hands held out helplessly before her, as she makes her way out of the World Trade Center's damaged North Tower on September 11, 2001.

Marcy Borders survived that day, getting out before both towers of the trade center crumbled and killed 2,753 people in the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.
But the woman in the photos, known to most as the "Dust Lady," died Tuesday, her family said. She was 42.
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She had been battling stomach cancer since last year, daughter Noelle Borders told CNN.
"My mom fought enemies in battle and I just loved her so much," Borders said in a phone interview. "She will always live through me."
    Family members mourned the mother of two on Facebook.
    "I can't believe my sister is gone," Michael Borders, her brother, posted.
    "We lost our very own hero," her cousin Elnardo Borders wrote.
    Borders was 28, working as a legal assistant at Bank of America in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, when planes hijacked by terrorists struck.
    Freelance photographer Stan Honda took the famous photograph as Borders escaped the collapsing building through a cloud of dust.
    "It wasn't like it was one of the best images you would want to view out in the world," she told CNN in an interview six months after the attacks. "Just looking at it just shows how much fear."
    Borders battled depression and drug addiction following the attacks, the Jersey Journal reported, but she checked into rehab in 2011 and found sobriety.
    She had recently found work again as well -- on a local political campaign in her native New Jersey -- when she was diagnosed with cancer, according to the paper.
    "How do you go from being healthy to waking up the next day with cancer?" she said in an interview with the Jersey Journal. "I'm saying to myself, 'Did this thing (the towers' collapse) ignite cancer cells in me?'"
    "I definitely believe it because I haven't had any illnesses," she told the paper.
    As of May, 3,700 survivors and first responders at the World Trade Center site have been diagnosed with cancers resulting from the terrorist attack, according to the CDC's World Trade Center Health Program.
    Reports from the CDC found that the collapse of the towers exposed workers and the general public to a number of known chemical carcinogens.
    In a tweet Tuesday night, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio remembered the survivor: "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."