Trinidad and Tobago native Genelle Guzman-McMillan yearned for a life of glitz and glamour, and in 1999 she came to the United States to find it.
On September 11, 2001, Guzman-McMillan was working for a temporary agency that had placed her with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as an assistant secretary.
The Port Authority offices were located on the 64th floor of the World Trade Center, Tower 1.
What began as a beautiful fall day for Guzman-McMillan, who still remembers the lilac skirt she was wearing, quickly descended into tragedy. About an hour after the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, Guzman-McMillan and her coworkers decided to take the staircase down. But when they reached the 13th floor, the tower collapsed on them. Guzman-McMillan alone survived. Her rescue, after 27 hours, was nothing short of miraculous.
Guzman-McMillan recalls that during the time she had spent trapped in the wreckage, she had repeatedly begged God to give her a second chance in life. And after what seemed like an eternity, a man had reached out and taken her hand, saying his name was Paul and that help was on the way.
While Guzman-McMillan was later recovering, she attempted to find him. But the group of firefighters who had come to her rescue said that nobody named Paul had been with them. And despite Guzman-McMillan’s appeals through the national news media, nobody ever came forward to identify himself as that Paul.
Guzman-McMillan eventually grew to believe that Paul had in fact never existed, that he was an angel sent by God. And in 2011, to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Guzman published a book, Angel in the Rubble, recounting what had happened to her on 9/11 and in the hours afterward.
A few days later, Guzman-McMillan’s co-writer, William Croyle, received a phone call from a man saying, “I’m Paul, and I want you to know I’m real.” Guzman-McMillan herself acknowledges receiving a visit from a firefighter telling her he had a letter from Paul.
In the end, both Croyle and Guzman-McMillan met with the man declaring himself to be that Paul. But Guzman-McMillan says that when she recounted the details of her rescue to him, he could not recall them. She left believing that he was not the Paul who had held her hand in the rubble. The two have not been in contact since that meeting in 2011.
After her recovery, Guzman-McMillan married the boyfriend she had left behind in Trinidad, along with their young daughter. Guzman-McMillan and her family now reside in New York.