Woman Who Was Coated in Dust Can’t Find Peace 2 Years After 9/11

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Merle English, Newsday

Published — Thursday 11 September 2003

Last Update 11 September 2003 3:00 am

NEW YORK, 11 September 2003 — Marcy Borders, whose dust-caked face became a symbol of the World Trade Center tragedy after she struggled down 81 flights of stairs to escape the conflagration, has pretty much given up on getting the help she needs to recover from her trauma.

“My life has been in a rut since 9/11,” she said dolefully, speaking curled up on a sofa in her subsidized apartment in Bayonne, N.J.

Two years ago, a photograph that captured her covered with dust in a frozen stance appeared in newspapers, magazines and on television programs around the world.

Borders, who had been on welfare but had started a new job as a $40,000 technical assistant at the Bank of America a month before Sept. 11, was at the copy machine in her 81st-floor office in Tower One when the first plane hit.

In her rush to get out of the building, she left behind her pocketbook with all the money she had — $500 from her first pay check — her driver’s license, Social Security card, and birth certificate. A building pass was her only identification.

But she has lost much more than that. Now, she has a fear of tall buildings, crossing bridges and going through tunnels, and a feeling of being abandoned by agencies that should be helping. She cannot stand to be in office buildings.

On Monday, Borders started what she said was a free pre-school, teaching “the basics” to two 3-year-olds from her neighborhood.

“This may be my turning point. Maybe this is what God wants me to do for the rest of my life,” she said. She is holding classes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in her apartment. “I feel safer in my own house,” she said.

Although she filled out forms provided by various agencies she contacted for help, Borders said she has not received adequate counseling or substantial financial support. She said she received about $300 from the Red Cross and donations totaling about $1,000, from individuals responding to her plight.

Nancy Rutherford, a Red Cross spokeswoman, said the organization gave substantially more money to Borders, and sent case workers to interview her. She said the Red Cross is “working with different agencies to help her.”

Borders, 29, the single mother of a 9-year-old daughter, has not smiled much since the attacks. Nor has she regained much of the weight she lost from her slender frame. Tiny bumps she attributes to stress recently appeared on her stomach.

Borders believes her self-esteem may be boosted if she can receive pro bono cosmetic dentistry for a cracked front tooth, and has written to the Maury Povich Show asking for help.

Anne Hosansky, author of “Turning Toward Tomorrow,” which gives suggestions for those who are coping with loss, offered some advice.

“Write a daily journal, whatever she feels, whether she’s angry or grief-stricken, and the good things we let go past us, like the first time we smiled or invited someone over.

“It reinforces you that you can move forward,” Hosansky said, “and to be patient with yourself, because you’re healing like someone who has been very ill.”

And Manhattan poet Sir Abdullah Smith-Ford, moved by her story, composed a poem, “The Forgotten,” dedicated to those who feel left out of the outreach government and private agencies are making to other survivors.

It starts: “Ignored. Misplaced. Shunned. Forgotten.

Where are they now?

Hundreds covered, soaked, dazed

By this country’s worst nightmare

Where are they now ... ?”

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