It’s been 20 years since Genelle Guzman McMillan became the last person pulled out alive from the World Trade Center rubble. In a new article via People magazine, Guzman McMillan relives that frightful moment and discusses the effect it’s had on her life.
The story states Guzman McMillan, who is of Trinidadian descent, was working on the 64th floor of Tower 1 in the World Trade Center as an office temp for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The then 30-year-old was in her office when the first hijacked plane hit the top of the 110-story building. When she realized that both the North Tower and the South Tower were struck by aircrafts, she and her coworker, Rosa, decided to exit the building through the staircase.
Before Rosa and Guzman McMillan could make it out of the building — around 10:28 a.m. — it collapsed on top of them. “Everything just went boom,” she told People. “Everything was crumbling and was just coming on top of me… I felt like I was there forever. I just thought I was dreaming. I just figured this has to be a dream. This is not happening. And I didn’t know if anybody was going to find me. I just laid there.”
“I heard everything, what was going on. I heard someone cry out for help in a very faint voice. I would hear the trucks and the walkie talkies going off,” Guzman McMillan continued. “But I couldn’t call out for some reason. Dust in my mouth, my nose. I was just laying there. Just didn’t know what to do, what to say. And the pain, it was shooting, like steel was like sticking at my side, by my stomach. I only had my left hand loose, I was trying to position myself to kind of ease that pain, but it didn’t help… I was thinking I’m going to die. I knew I wasn’t going to get out. I’m preparing myself to die.”
Guzman McMillan remained buried beneath the building’s ruins for 27 hours, People reported, before rescuers found her. Her 12-year-old daughter Kimberly was her motivation to live. So, Guzman Mcmilan kept praying and asking God to show her “a miracle.” “And then I was giving up. And I said, ‘Oh God, I can’t take this no more’ when I heard someone call out to me, I feel like he said, ‘I got you. My name is Paul,’” Guzman McMillan recalled. “He hold onto my hand. And I hold on his hands. Talking to me, telling me, ‘I’m going to be fine. I’m not going to let you go.’”
A total of 2,977 were killed on 9/11 and more than 6,000 were injured based on CNN statistics. Guzman McMillan is one of the lucky ones who was eventually rescued. She suffered several injuries: Her right leg was crushed, her head swollen and her face was burned. She also spent over a month in the hospital undergoing numerous surgeries and she currently walks with a permanent limp.
“I was given a new life,” Guzman McMillan said. “I know that God has a bigger plan for me and I just try to do what is right. And encourage people in order to try to move forward despite the adversity in life. My faith is just growing stronger and stronger.” The 50-year-old survivor is now a supervisor for the Port Authority at LaGuardia airport. In 2011 she released a memoir, titled “Angel in the Rubble,” about her experience on 9/11 and an angel named Paul who helped her.