This haunting image of Macy Borders, covered in dust and debris, was captured by AFP photographer Stan Honda as she fled into the streets of New York while the South Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) collapsed.
In the years after the terror attack, the Bank of America worker, who was 28 in 2001, went into a deep depression and battled addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine, but conquered these only to be diagnosed with stage 3 stomach cancer in 2014. She died on 24 August 2015.
The deadly disease toll following 9/11
Despite the US Environmental Protection Agency telling the public that there was no long-term danger to their health immediately following the attacks, Dr David Prezant of the NYC Fire Department coined the term "World Trade Center cough" after rescue workers started to develop chronic respiratory illnesses.
Post911attorneys.com claim that by now nearly 60,000 rescue and recovery workers, residents and office workers suffer from some form of 9/11-related illness. These include respiratory symptoms such as asthma and sarcoidosis (inflammation of the lungs), heartburn, acid reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux disorder (GORD) as well as, increasingly, cancer.
Although there are no definitive studies confirming a link between the inhaled toxic mix of jet fuel, asbestos, silica, cement dust, glass fibres and heavy metals, that, according to a 2011 Centres for Disease Control and Prevention report, filled the air around the falling towers, Macy Border's untimely death has drawn renewed attention to the mounting cases of cancer.
In 2012 US politicians pushed for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 - that provides money for treatment of 9/11-related illness - to include cancer as a cause of death.
The Mount Sinai Selikoff Centres for Occupational Health said in 2014 there were at least 1,646 certified cancer cases found in 9/11 first responders and rescuers and that the current tally of total number of people afflicted with 9/11-linked cancers stands at 3,700, surpassing the deaths of 2,996 people who died on 11 September 2001.
Data shows that colon, prostate, thyroid and blood cancers (such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) are the most prevalent.
In 2012 58 types of cancer where added to “the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions” published in the US Federal Register.
Image: World Trade Centre Health Program top 15 certified cancers
10,000 cases of PTSD
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website devoted to remembering the deaths of police officers serving in the US and its territories, 9/11-related illnesses are the second leading cause of death among officers of the New York Police Department. These include pulmonary fibrosis, multiple myeloma and cancer.
A study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (December 2014) has also found a high prevalence of co-morbid post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression among nearly 30,000 people who were rescue or recovery workers, lower Manhattan residents or area workers, or passers-by on the morning of 9/11, a decade or more after the terrorist attacks.
A new report in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology (April 2015) has found a strong link between long-term work at the site of the collapsed twin towers and the development of various autoimmune diseases, including arthritis and lupus.
Authors of the study say the risk of developing an autoimmune disease over the next decade rose about 13% for every month a person worked at the site.
Marcy Borders is an example of a cancer patient whose fate came too quickly, but the unfortunate reality is that she may not be an exception. The true toll of 9/11-related cancer deaths is probably yet to come.
Watch: 9/11 Survivor Marcy Borders tells the story of how she became known worldwide as "The Dust Lady".