NEW YORK – A World Trade Center disaster escapee, whose dust-caked body became an international symbol for the Sept. 11 terrorist tragedy, is still profoundly haunted by her experience.
A photograph of the dusty figure of single mother Marcy Borders, a former temp in the Twin Towers who fled as the buildings imploded and crumbled, appeared in countless publications in the days following the hijacker attacks.
Borders, a Bayonne, N.J., resident nicknamed "The Dust Lady" because of that image, wept openly in an interview with Fox News as she recounted how painful her life has become, how traumatized she still is and how difficult it has been to leave the nightmare in the past.
"My heart goes out to the family members who lost loved ones, kids who never will see their parents, the babies," she said.
Borders, then a temporary employee, was at an 81st-floor copy machine when the first hijacked plane hit the north tower.
"I think I'm Lady Luck," she said. "Don't call me 'The Dust Lady' but 'Ms. Lucky Lady.'"
Today, a still-unemployed Borders is struggling to overcome the demons.
The American flag hangs on her door but the display is marred by graffiti, scribbled by taunting neighborhood pranksters, that reads: "The Dust Lady lives here."
She feels as though she can't escape the unwanted fame the photograph brought with it.
"When I saw it, I was like: 'Oh my God, I really don't like the image America sees. It shows me,'" she said. "I might have been asking God: 'What do I do? What's going on? What's happening?' It shows fear.
"People look at this picture and see elegance. I don't see it," she said.
She wondered that day if her life was over, and keeps the clothes she was wearing in a plastic bag to remind her that it isn't.
"My favorite shirt," she said, pulling the dirt-covered blouse from the plastic. "The luckiest outfit anybody could have on. Nobody could tell me different."
Borders did survive — but only to face an uncertain future. Her 8-year-old daughter, Noelle, was sent to live with relatives because, she says, she can't get the financial help to keep going.
She takes comfort in the supportive letters she's received from people around the world, asking how they can help, with only her name and "Bayonne, New Jersey" on the envelope. A little girl from Oklahoma even sent her a patriotic teddy bear.
Borders has lost so much in the four months since Sept. 11. But she still has hope. It may be the legacy of what was immortalized on film that catastrophic day.
"I wasn't alone," she said. "People know what I'm going through. It's going to get better."
Follow Eric Shawn on Twitter: @EricShawnTV