Religion Today: 9/11 – Her Name Was Genelle
Guest Writer Spotlight: 9/11 – Her Name Was Genelle – By Richard Lewis
On the Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001 many Boeing employees, like myself, were already at work. Then the news reports came in that there had been a plane crash in New York. Several of us sat watching the TV, mesmerized and horrified by the events taking place. We held a small prayer meeting in an office and frankly, no one knew what to pray – We were all in shock. I remember someone praying for the rescue workers and the survivors. There was a lot of initial confusion and it became clear when the second of the World Trade Center buildings was hit and both buildings collapsed, there would be little chance of survival for anyone still left in those buildings.
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We did not realize that 2800 miles away there was already an answer to that prayer in progress. In total, only about 20 people who had been trapped in the rubble would get out. Most of them were found within the first few hours.
There was one last person who would be located and rescued. She would survive for 27 hours before being found and cut out of the debris. Genelle Guzman-McMillan had made it down the stairs with other co-workers from the Port Authority office on the 64th floor to the 13th floor. Then in a moment everything around her shifted. There was a loud rumble and the friends walking beside her disappeared and she found her body crushed flat between giant concrete slabs. The building would shake again and again and each time more debris would rain down on her. There was no light and she could hardly breathe or cry out.
Genelle Guzman, who went on to write a book about her 9/11 experience, has described how in the midst of her accepting her fate while buried deep in the ruble of the destroyed Twin Towers in New York she was visited by “Paul”, who comforted her and told her, “I’ve got you.” She and about 20 other victims were rescued a short time later. Internet sourced photos
As the hours passed Genelle resigned herself to the fact that she was going to die. She shared later that she had a very long talk with God. She had been brought up in a Christian home but very little of that had been carried into her adult life. She confessed to God all the ways she thought she had failed Him. She wondered if she could at least see the face of her 12 year old daughter one last time. She asked God if she could have just one more chance.
Only her left hand was free and she reached up into an opening above her head. She recalls, “I kept my hand out there, praying to God, Show me a sign. Show me a miracle. Show me that you’re out there. Show me that you are listening to me.” She repeated the prayer, again and again.
Then there was a voice and a gentle reassuring hand grasped her hand. The voice said, “Genelle, I’ve got you. My name is Paul”. Genelle recalled later that Paul stayed with her and grasped her left hand with both of his hands for a long time. Then after some time there was a rescue dog and voices and then a shout from above “We have a survivor”. There were calls for cutting equipment and Genelle was soon pulled from the debris of the North Tower stairwell. A human chain of rescue workers would pass Genelle’s stretcher from person to person until she reached the bottom of the pile of rubble.
Genelle was never able to determine who Paul was. He was not a part of the police, firemen and rescue dog teams. She remembered Paul’s hands were not covered with gloves like all the rescue workers had on to protect themselves from the broken glass and hot or sharp metal pieces. Genelle believes Paul was an angel, “I wasn’t dreaming,” she says. “I was wide awake. I know it was an angel. That was my miracle.”
Even on the way to the hospital Genelle recalled feeling different. Something had changed in her life. She would survive and see her daughter again. She would go on to marry and have more children. She would be involved in her church. On a few rare occasions her pastor would ask her to speak to others about the day the man called Paul held her hand.
In a later interview she shared, “I think I’m here for a bigger reason and bigger purpose. My life today is a blessing. I want people to know about my experience, what I’ve been through and how I’ve overcome that adversity in my life. I want people to know that God is real … that prayer works.”
Genelle reached out into the darkness and found God was there with her. No matter what we are facing we can be confident of God’s concern and His presence.
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I keep thinking about what she experienced and how God met her in her darkest hour. I am reminded of so many promises in the Bible.
If we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us: James 4:8, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”
He is our place of refuge: Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
The last verses I think of are from Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Richard Lewis is a graduate of Arizona State University (Advertising) and California Baptist University (Computer Information Systems). Richard and his wife Sue met while they served as staff members at Campus Crusade for Christ for 8 years in the 1970’s. Richard served in the Campus Ministry at University of Texas at El Paso, Louisiana Tech and at the International Headquarters in San Bernardino, California.
Following their ministry in Campus Crusade Richard was the owner and manager of a bicycle shop in Riverside California for 19 years. After retraining in the computer field at California Baptist University, Richard worked as a Information Systems contractor and employee at Boeing for 17 years. Richard has written over 150 published articles in Information Systems and Computing publications including Windows Magazine and Windows Scripting Solutions. Richard has served in a leadership role as a Deacon and Elder in several churches as well as being a meditation presenter and Men’s Ministry coordinator.
Richard has written hundreds of meditations and devotionals that have been used in church and small group meetings. Many of these have been published in The Upper Room and Racers For Christ publications and on their web sites.
In 2021 Richard published a collection of his devotionals. These are available in a Kindle and paperback format on Amazon (ISBN 979-8705738878) “Life Stories to Uplift and Encourage”.
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Trevor Montgomery, 50, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).
Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.