People.com Human Interest 9/11: The Last Person Pulled Out Alive from World Trade Center Rubble: 'I Was Given a New Life' "I was thinking, 'I'm going to die,'" Genelle Guzman McMillan says of spending 27 hours in the wreckage after Tower 1 collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001 By Diane Herbst Published on September 11, 2021 09:26 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Twenty years ago, Genelle Guzman McMillan had been in New York City for two years after arriving from her native Trinidad, 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 and "loving it," she says. On September 11, 2001, at 8:46 a.m. ET, a jet hijacked by Islamic terrorists hit the top floors of her 110-story building, also known as the North Tower. It shook her floor. Feeling a second shake that Guzman McMillan, 50, later realized was from another hijacked jet hitting the second tower next door, she and a coworker named Rosa decided to walk the staircase. In high heels and with feet aching, the then-30-year-old stopped on the 13th floor to take them off. Then the tower collapsed, at 10:28 a.m. Jill Biden Remembers the Moment That 'Changed Us All in Some Way' on 20th Anniversary of 9/11 "Everything just went boom," she recalls. "Everything was crumbling and was just coming on top of me." Guzman McMillan would be buried for more than a day. Genelle Guzman McMillan in the hospital after 9/11. Paul Chiasson/AP "I felt like I was there forever," she says. "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 shares. "But I couldn't call out for some reason," she says. "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," Guzman McMillan adds. Genelle Guzman McMillan and husband Roger McMillan. Courtesy Genelle Guzman "I tried to put my head out and I realized that it was really wedged and stuck. I was thinking I'm going to die. I knew I wasn't going to get out. I'm preparing myself to die," she explains. "But then I decided to pray. I just knew that I wanted to live because I wanted to see my daughter, Kimberly. She was 12 at the time. I just keep begging and praying, just asking God to show me a miracle," she says. "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,'" recalls Guzman McMillan. Queen Elizabeth and Her Troops Pay Tribute to 9/11 by Playing 'Star-Spangled Banner' at Changing of the Guard "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,'" she remembers. Guzman McMillan spent 27 hours in the rubble before rescuers arrived. Her right leg was crushed, her head swollen and face burned. She was hospitalized for over a month, and doctors at one point considered amputating her leg, but a fourth surgery saved it. She now has a permanent limp. Through this entire ordeal was Roger McMillan, her boyfriend at the time of the attacks. While in the hospital, she asked McMillan a question that had been on her mind for awhile. "I said, 'Honey, when I get out, let's go to City Hall and get married,'" she says. Courtesy Genelle Guzman They did, on Nov. 7 of that year. "And it's been a beautiful journey from there on," says McMillan, 58, who works for the Port Authority at JFK Airport in its environmental unit. "We appreciate each other knowing that there was a 99% I almost lost somebody that I fell in love with," he says. The couple had two daughters, now 17 and 16, and raised Guzman McMillan's daughter from a previous relationship, now 32. They live in Valley Stream, Long Island, and enjoy staying home and spending time with their children. Genelle Guzman McMillan and family. Courtesy Genelle Guzman "I was given a new life," says Guzman McMillan, now a supervisor for the Port Authority at LaGuardia airport. "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." While her nightmares about 9/11 have long ceased, McMillan notes there is one lingering psychological effect. "Regrets of her losing her best friend or coworkers," he says. "She has that kind of like survivor's remorse — 'Why did my coworkers die and I survived?'" On 9/11, These U.S. Fighter Pilots Faced a 'Suicide Mission' to 'Protect the Capitol' She gains strength from her Christian faith, and in 2011 published 'Angel in the Rubble, a memoir about her experience on 9/11 and the angel named Paul who helped her. Guzman McMillan says she's tried to find Paul for the last 20 years. "We never found Paul," she shares. "So we've come to the conclusion that Paul truly was my angel."