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Genelle Guzman-McMillan on Surviving the September 11th Attack in NYC

The last survivor pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center shares how the experience has changed her life and strengthened her faith.


Guideposts Video: Inspiring True Stories   My name is Genelle Guzman-McMillan. I work at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the LaGuardia Airport. In 2001, I was assigned from a temp agency, working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the World Trade Center. It seemed to be an emergency, a terrorist attack or something. And I was, like, a terrorist attack, what is that? I think we have to leave. I think there is something where a plane hit the building. I don’t know what’s going on but they said we have to leave. The building felt like an earthquake. Like it’s, like, it’s really going to fall. After we kept going on, twenty-something staircases, we saw firefighters. That’s when I just felt the whole wall and the tumbling, the rumbling and everything just came crashing down. It knocked me to the ground. When I realized that I couldn’t move, I couldn’t get up, I realized that this is not a dream, this is happening. I just closed my eyes and I said, Lord, am I gonna die here? And I was, like, I knew I was going to die because I knew the building collapsed, 110-story building, after a collapse like that, how could anybody find me under the rubble? And you know, so I was just kind of preparing myself to die. I was in so much pain and I knew I was still alive and I wanted to live. And for some reason I just said, you know, do something, say something and I just started to pray in silence. You know, I told Him to show me a sign. And if You pulled me out of this rubble, if You saved me today, I would change my life and I would do His will. Someone grabbed my hand and they called me by my name. And they said, “Genelle, I got you, my name is Paul.” And when that person grabbed my hand and told me his name and called me by my name, I said to myself, thank God, and my body just felt completely calm. I didn’t feel the pain, but I just kept holding onto his hand. And I said, thank God, thank God. And he said to me, he said, “I’m not going to let you go. Just keep holding on my hand, keep holding my hand until the rescuer gets here. I got you, I got you.” I was so joyful at that time, knowing that the guys came in, finally, I’m getting out. Then the doctors whisked me into the operating room and told me that I had to go through emergency. I spent like two months in the hospital. I had to do intensive therapy, physical therapy. In the hospital I was told that I was the last survivor to be removed from the rubble after 27 hours. Being under the rubble, I knew that I have given my life to Jesus Christ that day. I had made that commitment with God that I will change my life and do His will. I think I’m here to tell a story and to do the will of God as well. I think there is a bigger plan for me. A lot of people would come up to me and said, you know, my story has inspired them so much. I would get emails on the Facebook page and people would just send out emails, trying to connect with me, telling me about my story, how it’s been just a blessing of hope and inspiration for them. I looked at that as a positive thing for me. And it’s also a healing process for me too, because I don’t want people to live in fear when a tragedy happens in their life, that they’re supposed to be, like, so scared to do everything else and life is over, I see that I’m making a, impacting what I promised to God, of winning souls, I call it winning souls for Jesus, because I speak about him, it’s not about, it’s not my willpower, that gets me there it’s God’s grace on my life that He saved me and pulled me out of that pit. And today I just want to give all that glory to Him because without Him, I couldn’t do it alone. And it’s not by luck when people say, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky.’ That is not luck, that is the grace of God. Just gave me a wake-up call because if it wasn’t for 9/11, I think I would not have found Jesus. I would not have been the person I am today. Everything in this life is just temporary, but after this, there’s eternal life and that’s what I’m looking forward for. For more inspiring stories, subscribe to Guideposts magazine.  

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