She was much more than the “Dust Lady.”
Before Sept. 11, 2001, she was known as Marcy Borders.
Marcy Borders was 28 and had just started her job at Bank of America a month before the terrorist attacks. She worked on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center.
Although she managed to escape the two terrorist attacks alive, she didn’t do so without being covered in debris. A photographer captured her stunned eyes peeking through the dust, and her image became one of the most iconic photos taken during the terrorist attacks.
Her life after the attack was filled with PTSD, drug addiction, and depression. She lost custody of her children. She had a brief stint of recovery before a deadly diagnosis.
Last month, Marcy Borders died from stomach cancer. She was only 42.
Her death is a reminder that people suffer in very real ways decades after the tragedies we reduce to a moment of silence or a hashtag.
Lost lives are much bigger than a flag at half-staff, a forgotten meme, or an unwanted nickname like “Dust Lady.”
The way we remember tragedies—and the people who endure them—matters.
In the age of social media, people mistake acknowledgement for remembrance; visualization for reflection; and memorization for memorialization.
We’ve become voyeurs of tragedies, thinking we honor the suffering and the deceased by watching a violent video or reposting a troubling image, then continuing with our day.
But remembrance is more than a disposable moment. Remembrance demands a commitment to consistent action.
Remembrance requires continued commitment to humanize tragedies, protect survivors of tragedies, and fight cultural norms that would enable history to repeat itself in similar tragedies.
Remembrance requires a holy reverence, and that reverence requires work.
In I Corinthians 11:26, Jesus says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
The Last Supper gave us the holy practice of Communion. We embody the Christ in a sacred ritual that humanizes His suffering, honors His life, and celebrates the freedom we have through the sacrifice of His Death.
Perhaps Christ was giving us more than a religious ritual when He broke the bread of His body. Perhaps He was reminding us that taking pause to wholeheartedly practice remembrance is a holy practice in itself.
Maybe Jesus would want us to give life’s tragedies a little more than a #NeverForget.
We owe victims of tragedies more than shallow remembrance. We owe them active remembrance.
We can’t remember 9/11 without advocating for the mental and physical care of survivors, or even those who lost family members in the attack.
We can’t repost a picture of a Syrian child washing ashore without standing on the front lines for immigration reform and refugee protection in our own country.
We can’t talk about the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina without fighting for the impoverished people of color who are still displaced and still without answers.
Passive remembrance is easy. Active remembrance takes courage.
Marcy Borders had a name, and so did the thousands of people who died or are even still suffering because of 9/11.
We can honor her legacy and the thousands of others who were impacted that day by remembering that the consequences of tragedies last long after they happen.
We have a responsibility to care for the people who truly will never be able to forget.
Marchae Grair is many things. A Netflix addict, puppy enthusiast, songbird, Millennial dreamer, and God lover, to name a few. She is the editor of New Sacred and social media associate for the United Church of Christ. Twitter: @MarchaeGrair