Genelle Guzman-McMillan was the last survivor of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Buried alive for 27 hours, she reflects on the precious lessons she learned from her horrifying experience, including that despite it all, our country and our world continued to be filled with life. From Angel in the Rubble: The Miraculous Rescue of 9/11's Last Survivor.
After the attacks, the stock markets closed for nearly a week, airspace over the city was temporarily shut down, and businesses went under. But life did not stop. People in other places in the city, country, and world went to work. Babies continued to be born. People still went on vacations, worked in the yard, got married. In fact, for some, the world went at an even faster pace-for the rescuers, the hospital workers, the news media, and the government, all of which had to instantly respond to the attacks.
For the families of the victims, life sadly continued with funeral arrangements, final good-byes, and trying to figure out how they were supposed to move forward hour by hour without their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children. When I was buried under the rubble, I would have given anything to be able to make the world stop as, with each passing second, death crept closer.
But what I learned from my experience is that if we accept the fact that life will never, ever stop for anybody, we can use it as motivation to make the most of the time we have, to live each day with a vigor that makes every moment count. As time continued to pass while I was under the debris, I finally started to use it wisely by getting closer and closer to God, and it led to my becoming the better person I am today. For those who lost loved ones in the attacks, hopefully life's refusal to stop has distanced them, even if just a tiny bit, from the pain they felt on 9/11. Hopefully it has brought them happiness in other ways-through new relationships, through service, or through political efforts to make the country a safer place for future generations.I think realizing that life will continue no matter what, and no matter who you are, is half the battle toward living every day to the fullest. The rest of the battle is just living it in a positive light-by giving of yourself to others, working hard at everything you do, loving everybody around you, not fretting over the small stuff, appreciating what you have, not holding grudges, living your dreams, smiling a lot.
Simon & SchusterAngel in the Rubble