For 27 hours, as the world came to the reality of what is now one of the darkest moments in American history, her body lay in the rubble, pinned down in a single position, with only her left hand let loose, awaiting a miracle.
This miracle would come eventually but it would redefine the entire life of this Trinidadian-born woman, who was the last survivor to have been rescued from the unforgettable ruins of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The attack claimed about 3,000 lives.
Genelle Guzman-McMillan believes that for her life to have been spared from death on that day, she must live the rest of it with a greater purpose in mind, searching for the greater good of others.
From her office on the 64th floor of one of the two World Trade Center buildings, Genelle heard a loud, terrible noise from outside on that fateful day. Still unsure what had happened until she saw the news on the television in one of the conference rooms, her fears began taking the better of her.
Soon, along with other fourteen workers on the floor, they were immediately directed to evacuate the building, quickly making their ways down the long stairs.
From the 64th floor, they had arrived on the 13th floor already when she decided, only for a brief moment, to bend down to pick up her 4-inch high heel but that was when her worst nightmares took effect.
Almost immediately, the building crumbled in on her and the others, pinning and trapping her immediately, in what would be the longest wait of her entire life: 27 hours of waiting for a rescue, or what she best terms a miracle.
Those hours turned into moments of despair. They were not just long and frightening for Genelle, as she sat with her head pinned between two pieces of concrete, her legs sandwiched by pieces of a stairway – they became her moment of reconnecting spiritually to her creator.
It had become too obvious by a certain time that her toes had gone numb, with only her left hand left free to do anything with. She struggled to get her voice through the thick dust, hoping that someone would hear her. Her voice, as she described, would only be whispers in those attempts of crying for help.
But Genelle realized she could still have a communication with one person and so she called out to God.
“Please God, Just give me a second chance. I promise, I promise that I will do Your will.” As she communicated with God, unsure if He was listening or not, she had to bear all the excruciating pain weighed on her entire body, as weakness crippled gradually into her body.
Yet, at that point, all she required of God was a sign; a sign that He had heard her cries and that He was able to save her. That was when her answer came but this saviour was walking on fours: a dog.
Although there were several humans equipped with special gear to search for survivors in the rubble, there were also some more than 300 specially trained search-and-rescue dogs that were deployed at Ground Zero in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One of those dogs found her.
“It was dark and everything was rumbling. That’s when I felt a hand. It was a hand on my shoulder that said, ‘I’m right here. I’m not going to leave you’” she told CBN.com.
“It’s so awesome that the dogs could have this kind of sense, to find people buried under the rubble,” Guzman-McMillan told Animal Planet for the new documentary “Hero Dogs of 9/11.” “I felt total renewed life in me… That was the most joyful moment.”
Guzman-McMillan has lived till date to share her story, publishing a book entitled Angel In The Rubble, which catalogues her story under the rubble and all that happened to her in those 27 hours.
“This tragedy was a wake-up call for me because it transformed me into a much better, caring person and I’m just forever grateful to be part of this new life. I begged for it, I asked God, I begged and I pleaded with Him to give me that second chance, because I wanted to make that change, and I knew genuinely that I was going to make that change and I did.”