NEW YORK -- The photo of a young woman coated in dust and ash was one of the iconic images of September 11, 2001. Marcy Borders, then a 28-year-old legal assistant, became known as the "Dust Lady." Now, nearly 14 years later, Borders has died of cancer.
On the day of the attacks, Borders was working for Bank of America in the World Trade Center. She made it down from the 81st floor and stepped onto the sidewalk as the South Tower began to fall, CBS New York reports. That's when photographer Stan Honda captured the famous image of Borders covered in ash and looking like a ghost.
Borders, a mother of two who lived in Bayonne, New Jersey, was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year. She died Monday at the age of 42.
Her brother, Michael Borders, posted a message on Facebook Monday morning asking for people to pray for her. Late Monday night, he wrote: "I can't believe my sister is gone."
In another Facebook post on a 9/11 memorial page, John Bordes, Marcy Borders' cousin, called her "my HERO" and said she "unfortunately succumbed to the diseases that have riddled her body since 9/11."
In an interview with The Jersey Journal last November, Borders said she had undergone chemotherapy and was scheduled for surgery in December, followed by more chemo and radiation. She said she wondered whether her exposure to dust on 9/11 may have contributed to her illness years later.
"I'm saying to myself 'Did this thing ignite cancer cells in me?'" she said. "I definitely believe it because I haven't had any illnesses. I don't have high blood pressure...high cholesterol, diabetes."
Borders told the Journal at the time that she didn't have a job or health insurance, and was struggling to pay her medical bills.
A number of different cancers, including certain stomach cancers, are included on the list of conditions covered under the World Trade Center Health Program, which allows first responders, local residents and survivors to seek compensation for treatment. Lung and respiratory illnesses are also covered, due to harm from exposure to toxic dust on 9/11.
Before cancers were added to the list of covered conditions in 2012, scientists said there was little research to prove exposure to dust at Ground Zero caused cancer. But the program's advisory panel said it was plausible that first responders and others who were exposed to the toxic dust might get cancer.
A study published in The Lancet in 2011 found firefighters who worked at the World Trade Center site had 10 percent more cancers than the general public and 19 percent more than firefighters who weren't involved with 9/11.
In her interview last fall with The Jersey Journal, Borders said she tried to avoid looking back on that terrible day and the "Dust Lady" photo that became so famous.
"I try to take myself from being a victim to being a survivor now. I don't want to be a victim anymore," she told the paper.