(Photo: Simon & Schuster via The Christian Post)
Genelle Guzman-McMillan insists that it is not fear that keeps her from returning to Manhattan's ground zero. The Port Authority employee, now also an author, says that it is the ordeal of reliving how two hijacked planes 10 years ago sent the World Trade Center crumbling, burying her co-workers and herself beneath piles of rubble. As Guzman-McMillan lay buried alive for nearly 30 hours, the screams she heard in the darkness around her soon faded away. She was alone, she thought, and could think of only one thing to do – cry out to God.
As Guzman-McMillan tells it 10 years later, Sept. 11, 2001, was just another normal day. Things were going great between herself and her boyfriend, she was happy with her job on the 64th floor of the WTC's north tower, and, despite her religious upbringing, she was getting along fine without God, having rejected Him long ago.
Guzman-McMillan recounts her story of survival and salvation in Angel in the Rubble: the Miraculous Rescue of 9/11's Last Survivor, released last month by Simon & Schuster. Within the space of 240 pages, the Trinidadian native shares how she and her co-workers started to flee their office in the 110-story building and how she paused on the 13th floor to remove her high-heels. It was then, Guzman-McMillan says, that her whole world literally came crashing down and her life changed forever.
Despite being trapped for 27 hours in the rubble, believing that she was surely going to die, Guzman-McMillan told The Christian Post that she has no regrets about her decisions that day.
"No, I have no regrets at all of what happened," the mother of four said. "It made me a better person. I have a deeper and closer relationship with God."
Guzman-McMillan, who lives in Long Island with her husband of nine years and their four children, did not always have such a relationship with God. Despite growing up in a Christian household, the 40-year-old woman says she never took what she had been taught very seriously.
Asked to describe her life before the horrific events of 9/11, Guzman-McMillan said she lived a wild life full of partying, drinking, and doing whatever she wanted.
Although she did not have any kind of meaningful relationship with God, she knew enough about Him to realize that He was her one and only hope of getting out of the rubble alive.
Trapped under concrete and steel with her right hand pinned under her body and legs crushed beneath a steel beam, Guzman-McMillan extended her left hand into the sliver of open space above her and found the strength to pray ... and pray and pray. Unsure of her eternal fate, Guzman-McMillan pleaded for hours with God to forgive her of her sins and to give her another chance.
"I said to Him, 'please, God, if you save me today ... give me a second chance, I promise I will do Your will," Guzman-McMillan told the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), adding that she was serious about the promises she made that day.
Her hand still extended above her in the pocket of open space, Guzman-McMillan asked God to send her a sign that He had heard her plea.
"Someone grabbed me by my hand and called me by my name, saying, 'Genelle, I've got you. My name is Paul," she recounted for CBN.
"I was asking God for a miracle, for a sign [and Paul] held my hand so tight ... reassuringly," Guzman-McMillan told CP, adding that she was sure she was not hallucinating.
Within minutes of Paul's appearing, Guzman-McMillan could hear rescue workers calling out for survivors. She remembers meeting the men who eventually pulled her from the rubble. But as for Paul, "I never got to meet him,” she told CP.
Guzman-McMillan is convinced that this mysterious Paul was an angel sent by God to encourage her throughout her ordeal, that he was the sign she had prayed for.
As she was removed from the rubble and taken to a hospital, she says she already felt a change.
"I knew I was a changed person. I was just ... praising and glorifying God," she said.
Not long after being released from the hospital, where she stayed for more than six weeks and underwent four major surgeries, Guzman-McMillan said the only thing on her mind was getting baptized, one thing she had promised God that she would do.
Another promise on her list was to marry her boyfriend, which she did on Nov. 7, the same day she was baptized.
Guzman-McMillan, who has been a member of Brooklyn Tabernacle for 10 years, told CP that she knows God brought her through that "heart-wrenching" and "horrific" ordeal for a reason.
"I think I'm here for a bigger reason and bigger purpose. My life today is a blessing. I [want] people to know about my experience, what I've been through and how I've overcome that adversity in my life," she told CP. "I want people to know that God is real ... that prayer works."