Nine Stories Of 9/11 Victims That Paint A Heartbreaking Picture Of America’s Darkest Day

Published June 28, 2022
Updated March 12, 2024

Genelle Guzman-McMillan: The 9/11 Victim Who Survived 27 Hours Trapped In Rubble

Genelle Guzman McMillan

TwitterGenelle Guzman-McMillan was fleeing from the North Tower when the building collapsed, trapping her in rubble.

For Genelle Guzman-McMillan, 9/11 started like a typical workday. She reported to her job as an assistant at the Port Authority office on the 64th floor of the North Tower and had a bagel for breakfast as she chatted with another employee. But then, an airplane hit her building.

According to the Washington Post, Guzman-McMillan remained at her desk as other people started to flee. A Trinidadian immigrant, she had overstayed her U.S. visa, and she was worried that she’d get in trouble if she left her desk. Instead, Guzman-McMillan sat with another employee and watched as items swirled in the air outside the building’s windows.

When smoke started to pour into their office from the elevators, Guzman-McMillan and her fellow employee decided to evacuate. But they had only made it to the 13th floor when the entire building collapsed around them.

“Everything just went boom,” Guzman-McMillan later told People. “Everything was crumbling and was just coming on top of me.”

9/11 Rubble

Porter Gifford/Corbis via Getty ImagesFirst responders search the rubble of the World Trade Center on September 12, 2001.

For 27 hours, Guzman-McMillan lay in the darkness, flitting in and out of consciousness and losing hope that she would survive.

“I felt like I was there forever,” she told People. “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.”

But someone did find her. On September 12th, she became the last person pulled alive from the 9/11 rubble. “I’ve got you, Genelle,” she remembers her rescuer saying. “My name is Paul, and you’re going to be okay.”

To date, Guzman-McMillan has never been able to find Paul to thank him. She and her husband believe that he might have not existed at all.

“We never found Paul,” she explained to People. “So we’ve come to the conclusion that Paul truly was my angel.”

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.