It was a picturesque September morning in New York City. The skies were painted blue, the sun was beaming bright.
Marcy Borders, 28, arrived early to her employer, Bank of America, located in the north tower of the World Trade Center. The Bayonne, New Jersey, resident had worked as a clerical assistant at the financial institution for about a month. She showed up at 8 a.m. each day, elegantly dressed, full of optimism.
The 9/11 tragedies impacted people across the United States. In response, many Americans increased their drug and alcohol intake.
Marcy was on the 81st floor when a hijacked commercial jetliner struck the building, 12 floors above. Minutes later, another plane crashed into the neighboring south tower.
Hysteria ensued. Marcy fought her way down a crowded staircase, alongside hundreds of others. One hour later, she reached the street. She looked up. The south tower crumbed before her eyes.
Everything went dark.
Debris covered Marcy, head to toe, in ash and dust. Photojournalist Stan Honda snapped a shot of her, which would become an iconic representation of that day. People would refer to her as the “Dust Lady.”
Debris from the World Trade Center covered Marcy Borders on 9/11. She would later battle drug and alcohol addiction. Marcy narrowly survived, but her life would never be the same. She fell into a decade-long depression and battled addictions to alcohol and crack cocaine. In 2015, she succumbed to stomach cancer. She was 42.
“She went through some low points with the depression and drug use,” Michael Borders, Marcy’s younger brother, told DrugRehab.com. “It lasted for years, and it all stemmed from 9/11.”
Countless individuals, like Marcy Borders, struggled with mental illness and substance use disorders in the aftermath of the attacks. Reports show substance abuse became an epidemic among many Americans — witnesses and responders, adults and children.
Fifteen years later, people continue to battle mental disorders and addictions resulting from that day. Although some have sought help, many have not. However, treatment for mental or substance use disorders may lessen the burden of this tragedy on thousands of lives.