4 Surprising Health Issues Linked To September 11 Terrorist Attacks

Men walk through Manhattan in cloud of dust on September 11, 2001. Photo courtesy of Cliff/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
Men walk through Manhattan in cloud of dust on September 11, 2001. Photo courtesy of Cliff/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

US Editorial Team Lead

Marcy Borders looked stunned in the hazy photo that captured her soot-covered body moments after the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001. She was just 28 years old, working as a legal assistant at Bank of America in the north tower when two planes flew squarely into the buildings, killing thousands of people and leaving even more on the ground below trying to make sense of what was going on.
Marcy Borders (the dust lady), one of September 11th survivors died Aug 24th 2015 of stomach cancer thought to be caused by the dust etc inhaled during the event! 15 years on and the tragedy is still raw! #NeverForgotten #powerfulimage #marcyborders #thedustlady #RIP
A photo posted by Andrew ‘HAMMY’ Hamshire (@andy4779) on Sep 11, 2015 at 3:20am PDT
That photo of Borders soon became synonymous with the tragic events of the day, with many referring to her as the “dust lady.” She was a survivor, but by many accounts still very much a victim. In interviews in the days, months, and years following the attacks, she expressed problems coping. She struggled with depression and substance abuse — conditions she didn’t have prior to the attacks. And in the end, last year at age 42, Borders died from stomach cancer that she believed was directly linked to the dust that covered her body that day.
“Why can’t this be over? I’m tired. I’m just tired,” Borders told The Jersey Journal last year. “I’m saying to myself ‘Did this thing (the terror attacks) ignite cancer cells in me?’ I definitely believe it because I haven’t had any illnesses. I don’t have high blood pressure…high cholesterol, diabetes.”
Borders may have felt alone in her struggle at times, but thousands of workers and first responders are still experiencing similar health problems, both physical and mental, even 15 years after the September 11th attacks. Though post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), respiratory diseases, and cancer are the conditions we most commonly associate with the attacks, there are other, unexpected health issues that some survivors report experiencing. These conditions are covered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) World Trade Center Health Program, which was created to help monitor health problems related to the 2001 attacks.

Ground zero.

Here are four lesser-known conditions survivors are coping with 15 years after the September 11th terrorist attacks:

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes patients to stop breathing periodically during what’s supposed to be a restful sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea can be serious if not treated. People with sleep apnea have trouble staying awake during the day, have attention problems, and tend to experience irritability.

Depression is a mood disorder that can literally impact every single aspect of a patient’s day-to-day life. The condition has been linked to feelings of hopelessness, decreased energy, and physical aches and pains. In extreme cases, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Trauma, like witnessing the events of September 11th, can trigger the development of depressive symptoms.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), which is more commonly referred to as “acid reflux,” happens when the liquid in the stomach splashes up into the esophagus causing discomfort and, in serious cases, leads to ulcers and/or severe bleeding.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a pattern of alcohol or drug use that severely interferes with an individual’s everyday life. This condition can be caused by genetics, environmental stressors, or psychiatric issues. Substance abuse problems can contribute to weight loss, fatigue, and depression.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article