Genelle Guzman-McMillian was a Port Authority worker, on the job for only nine months, working on the 64th floor of one of the WTC towers on September 11, 2001 when she felt the building shake and heard the noise of the first impact.
A look out the window showed papers floating in the sky, but it was not clear what happened until she saw news reports on a TV in a conference room.
Eventually, she and the other remaining fourteen workers were evacuated and began walking down those stairs, only encountering a single fireman on the way up.
She had walked down to the 13th-floor stairs with her circle of co-workers and paused to remove her 4-inch-high heels when the building collapsed, pinning and trapping her for 27 hours under concrete, steel, and dead bodies.
McMillan’s head was pinned between two pieces of concrete, her legs sandwiched by pieces of a stairway.
Her toes had gone numb hours before. Her right hand was pinned under her leg. Only her left hand was free.
For hours, she reached upward with that free hand into the blackness and dust, pushing and twisting her fingers into the small spaces between steel and concrete.
She tried tapping. She tried calling out, but with the dust and inadequate amount of air, her voice was barely a whisper.
And so she waited. And while she waited,