It seemed impossible to imagine that anyone trapped inside the Towers when they collapsed could still be alive. But twenty people made it out. Among them were firefighters from Ladder Company 6, a pair of police officers, and, finally, a young Port Authority secretary named Genelle Guzman-McMillan [S6]. More than an hour after the first plane hit, she followed a group of co-workers into Stairwell B, on the 64th floor, where the air was clear and cool. As she barreled down one flight after another, Guzman-McMillan felt increasingly certain that she would reach the street, where she had arranged to meet her boyfriend. Near the landing of what she remembers as the thirteenth floor, as she stopped to take off her heels, she thought she had simply lost her balance. Then the walls of the stairwell burst cartoonishly inward, and Guzman-McMillan was hurtling toward the ground alongside tons of steel and concrete.
She came to rest on her side, her head wedged between pieces of concrete, her right arm pinioned to her body, her right leg crushed. “Under me was a soft spot, which was a dead body,” Guzman-McMillan remembered. She remained there for 27 hours, sweating and shivering, most of the time in complete silence. While under the rubble, she began to talk to God. On the morning of September 12, at 9:15 a.m., a German shepherd named Trakr located her scent.
Matthew Shaer is the author of Among Righteous Men, which will be published this fall.