Challenge of Literature – Angel in the Rubble

This month, I’ve joined 34 other jewellery designers to participate in the Challenge of Literature, a fun blog hop hosted by Erin Prais-Hintz.

The hardest part for me, was deciding what story? Should I pick a classic fairy tale, an intense crime drama, a thriller or a real life story…  Finally, I opted to create a piece of jewellery inspired by a book I recently read as part of the book club I belong to.  I was inspired by both the miraculous story and the woman behind it.

I think all of us remember what we were doing and where we were when we heard the terrible news of the planes crashing into the World Trade Centre on 9 September 2001. Even in Australia (so far away), I recall where I was as vividly as if it was yesterday.  So, I chose Angel in the Rubble: The Miraculous Rescue of 9/11’s Last Survivor, the heart-wrenching and life-changing true story of Genelle Guzman-McMillan who was the last survivor to be pulled out alive from under the wreckage of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre.

“Trapped under concrete and steel with her right hand pinned under her body and legs crushed beneath a steel beam, Genelle Guzman-McMillan extended her left hand into the sliver of open space above her and found the strength to pray … and pray and pray.”

My rosary design is symbolic of Genelle Guzman-McMillan’s conversations with God during her horrific 27 hour ordeal trapped under the rubble of the World Trade Centre. It symbolises  her prayers to God for a second chance, the miracle of her survival and her renewed faith.

The rosary decades are created with black agate rounds interspersed with silver Miyuki seed beads. The pater beads are faceted fire crackle black agate rounds with specks of grey (to symbolise the darkness and the intense clouds of dust), which are framed with sterling silver bead caps (representing the steel beams and fallen building).

The cross is bead woven in black using 4mm Jet Swarovski bicones and size 11 black Miyuki seed beads. The front side of the cross features a small diamond-shaped window of  4mm Violet Opal Swarovski bicones, which are symbolic of the light – both the physical light which shone through as she was rescued and the spiritual light – Paul, the ’angel’ who reassured her that everything would be ok.  As a bead woven piece, the gaps between the bicones also allow the light to constantly shine through.


Unsure of her eternal fate, she pleaded for hours with God to forgive her of her sins and to give her another chance. “Someone grabbed me by my hand and called me by my name, saying, ‘Genelle, I got you. My name is Paul.’ ” Genelle never found Paul, and none of the other rescuers ever saw or heard him. She is convinced that this mysterious Paul was an angel sent by God to encourage her throughout her ordeal, that he was the sign she had prayed for.

Some of the reviews of Angel in the Rubble have commented that it is too ‘preachy’ and deviated from the gritty realism of the story. Perhaps it does…but at the end of the day this is Genelle’s story. Her experience has put her on a spiritual path and she shares this as part of her 9/11 experience. Regardless of your religion (and I’m not religious), it’s an incredible account of one person’s harrowing and life-changing experience, and I’d recommend reading it.  If you do, let me know what you think.

Go to Erin’s Treasures Found blog for the complete list of the Challenge of Literature participants.



  1. This necklace is just such an incredibly meaningful and beautiful piece. I do remember where I was that day. My mom woke me up, it was shortly before I started my freshman year at UO and I was sleeping in still at home…. I remember her shocked and horrified voice telling me something horrible was happening and I needed to wake up. My parents, baby brother, and I, we all sat there… staring at the TV for hours. I will never forget the way I felt, even from so far away, here on the West Coast… horrified, terrified, sad, sick… so many conflicting emotions. Thank you for sharing this book and for sharing your piece. We will never forget.

  2. Tracy, that’s a beautiful necklace, and although I haven’t read the book, from your description it is a very fitting and meaningful piece too.

  3. You did a great job on the rosary, making different pieces symbolize elements in the book. I like how the light can shine through the bicones of the cross. Very nice!

  4. Wow, just reading your post brought tears to my eyes. Your rosary is beautiful and I will have to read that book. I will always remember that day.

  5. What an amazing piece – love the different elements and the meaning behind each. Love the cross!

  6. What a story, I really can’t imagine what it must have been like. I think your interpretation is very fitting based on your decription of her journey. I love the built in reference to light because of the shape, perfect! I’ll never forget what my mum said to me that day as I came down the stairs, no idea yet what had happened. She just yelled it from in front of the sink, not even looking up “the whole world had gone mad” by the time I walked passed her and saw the tv, it was just before the second tower was hit. I felt so sick that day, leaving home to go off to school with all unfolding… and I should say I’m Canadian and can’t fathom what it must have been like for those with loved ones in those areas in those moments. I’m sure there will never be a time when I don’t get a little rattled even thinking about it. Just tragic.

  7. I have chills Miss Tracy. I knew of that last survivor’s tale but this piece so embodies her plight and her unwavering faith and the strength she found to get through this ordeal. I am sure that her life was destined for something great. Thank you for playing with me in this Challenge! Enjoy the day. Erin

  8. Hi Tracy,
    I wrote the book with Genelle and am personally flattered by your comments about the book and the rosary. Please email me and let me know how I can get a couple of these.

    Have a great day!


  9. You are right, we all remember so clearly where we were, what we were doing…. ( I could see the Pentagon smoke from my house, even after work that day.) I like the symbolism of the light coming through the weave of the bicones. Your emotion for the subject comes through in your post. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Virtual Presence Marketing · · Reply

    Wow…wow…wow…wow….This is an amazing tribute to an amazing story…and quite beautiful as well! I was in DC on 9/11, and my 11 week old son was at his second day of day care less than a mile from the pentagon on that wretched day so I also remember it well!!!!!! Though I certinaly can’t even begin to imagine how Genelle got through this day – this rosary is so very perfect for this book!!

  11. I remember that day vividly and love how you took a survivor’s story and immortalized it with a piece of jewelry.

  12. Reading about the story you chose made me cry all over again–for Genelle, for all those who lost their lives, for all those who lost loved ones, for all those who survived and deal with this horriffic event every day.

    The piece you made is beautiful. I love the woven cross and all the special elements you added to re-tell Genelle’s story.

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