The Upshot

Woman from iconic 9/11 photo overcomes decade of hardship

The Upshot

(Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

The attacks on 9/11 changed the lives of billions -- and few more so than Marcy Borders. Soon after the World Trade Center attacks, Borders was photographed covered in dust and ash from the fallout. The photo, taken by Stan Honda of AFP, was one of the iconic images from that terrible day.

Borders has been through a lot in the 10 years since. There have been problems with depression and substance abuse, as well as lingering nightmares about Sept. 11. She recently spoke with the New York Post about her life's ups and downs over the past decade.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Borders had been working at her new bank job for just a month. The planes hit the World Trade Center, and a panicked Borders left her desk on the 81st floor of the north tower to go out into the street to see what was happening.

Just as she got to the street, the south tower fell, and Borders couldn't see much of anything. "I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. The world went silent," she remarked. Eventually, someone pulled her into a building's lobby, where a photographer captured the haunting photo of her surrounded by harsh yellowish dust. According to the U.K.'s Telegraph, Borders still has the clothes she wore that day, "still unwashed and coated in the dust of the twin towers."

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Marcy Borders with son Zay-den (Photo: Coleman-Rayner)

In her talk with the Post, Borders details some of the difficulties she's faced since then: "My life spiraled out of control. I didn't do a day's work in nearly 10 years, and by 2011 I was a complete mess. 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."

This past April, she checked herself into rehab, after realizing that she would die if she stayed on her current path. A little more than a week later, she got the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by American forces. The news, along with her new clean and sober lifestyle, did a lot to help silence her inner demons. "I used to lose sleep over him, have bad dreams about bin Laden bombing my house, but now I have peace of mind."

Top photo courtesy of LIFE.com. View their full collection of photos.

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