Marcy Borders was enshrined as an icon of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center when a news photographer snapped her debris-covered form. Having just fled one of the towers, she had been pulled into a nearby building for safety after being stunned by the suffering she encountered in the streets. She wanted to run back out after hearing the sound of one tower’s crash, but was restrained. This photograph captures that moment in which she was saved from fleeing into harm’s way.
Marcy’s death-defying escape preserved her body, but crushed her soul. After witnessing injured people impaled with rubble and covered in blood, she descended into drug addiction to cope with hellish memories.
Barely surviving murderous mayhem rendered Marcy unable to cope with life. She lost custody of her two children after abusing alcohol and pills to numb the pain. She lost her desire to take care of herself, or live. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Mail, Borders details the self-destructive path she followed for ten years — and her remarkable road to redemption. Marcy is clean and sober now:
But in the weeks and months following the event, Marcy’s life began to fall apart. ‘If you’d have talked to me in March, 2002, I’d have told you my life was over,’ she says.
‘My life spiraled out of control. I didn’t do a day’s work in nearly ten years, and by 2011, I was a complete mess.
‘I was convinced Osama Bin Laden was planning more attacks. Every time I saw an aircraft, I panicked.
‘If I saw a man on a building, I was convinced he was going to shoot me.
‘I started drinking heavily. Then I started drinking a lot more. I couldn’t handle life so I started taking drugs.
‘I started smoking crack cocaine, because I didn’t want to live.’
Marcy was unable to pay her bills or look after her children. Her daughter Noelle went away to live with her father, and Child Protection officers arrived at her home to assess the living conditions of her son Zay-den.
The stark effects of crack cocaine forced Marcy to realize that she had to enter rehab to save her life. “I knew I’d be dead in weeks, unless I did something,” she told The Daily Mail. That was on April 18 of this year. Miraculously, by the 23rd, she was in a treatment program.
Towards the end of rehab, news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed renewed her hope. “The death of Bin Laden helped focus my recovery, I used to lose sleep over him, have bad dreams about Bin Laden bombing my house, but now I have peace of mind,” Marcy explained to the British outlet.
Finishing the 28-day program in May was Marcy’s first step towards a new life. To millions around the world, Marcy might always be that emblem of terror — with clothes, hair and skin coated with dust. This photograph is so well-known, it was named one of Time Magazine’s ’25 most powerful images.’ But Marcy’s not that tortured woman anymore. That time of destruction is behind her.
She still keeps those clothes, though, as a relic of her trials and a reminder of all she is victorious over. She shares a new home with the children who have been returned to her care and her partner Donald Edwards. Marcy plans for much happier events like the graduation of her 18-year-old daughter from high school, as her three-year-old plays in the background.
After overcoming her addictions, deeply comforted by Bin Laden’s death, Marcy Borders is now free of old horrors, now becoming a new symbol. A symbol of the power of human beings to regenerate themselves through faith, hope and love.