When the mansion crashed, they fled from smoke and ruin

Fort Lauderdale, Florida (AP) — Alfredoropes and his wife Marian were asleep when the first thunder awakened them. After a while, a second boom, much larger than the first, shook the bed on the sixth floor of an apartment in Miami.

Alfredo hurriedly awakened his 24-year-old son, Michael, to urge him to dress before rushing to the balcony window.

“I could only see very thick white dust. I could barely see the balcony railings.”

The lights went out and an emergency alert sounded, warning the residents of Champlain Towers South to evacuate. Lopez was thinking of sneakers, but found out that his hands were shaking so badly that he couldn’t tie his laces, so he sat down in sandals with straps.

Marian Lopez was confused. The 67-year-old looked for shoes when her husband was impatient and pressured her.

The Lopez family has lived on the streetside of a partially intact condo for 20 years. Alfredo was joking with his wife, who had to bury him there.

When he opened the door that night, half of the building was gone. The jagged 5-foot floor mass left little space to escape.

“There were no corridors, no ceilings, no apartments, no walls.”

The 61-year-old child was frightened and frozen and stuck.

“I was surprised. I really thought,’This is it. We’re going to die.”


Sometimes the line between life and death looks random at first glance, like sea or street views, odd or even units. Many others barely fled, while 126 residents, mainly from seaside units, went missing nine days later. When the elevator collapsed, the survivors went down the cracked stairs away from the wall, helping their first-time neighbors and others they had known for years, and everyone “overcame this tragedy forever.” “. Albert Aguero helped the safety of an 88-year-old stranger.

Their escape was painful and long, but it all unfolded in just a few minutes. During those dangerous seconds, they were fighting to survive before the world knew more than 22 dead and many missing.

“When I open the door of the stairs and half of the stairs are gone, at that point we all know that as a family we are competing with time to get out,” Aguero said. ..


On the ground floor, Gabriel Nir, who recently graduated from college, had just finished midnight training and was cooking salmon in the kitchen. The rest of the family was usually asleep, but the 15-year-old sister returned from the babysitter and took a shower. The father left town and the mother had just returned from the event.

They all heard the first thunder. They knew that the building was under construction and was frustrated by the constant noise, but this was a different feeling.

Her mother, Sarah Nil, rushed to the lobby and asked the guards if she had seen anything.

Back in the kitchen, thick concrete dust rushed into the apartment through a window on the patio near the pool. The ground was shaking when 25-year-old Gabriel rushed to the bathroom.

“We have to go now!” He shouted to his sister. They rushed to the lobby, where the mother urged the guards to call 911. The guards couldn’t remember the address, so Gabriel called.

“Hurry up, hurry up,” he begged.

Outside, he noticed that the car deck had fallen into a parking lot. The car alarm sounded, the emergency lights flashed, and the garage where the pipe ruptured was rapidly filled with water.

He returned to the lobby. There, a cloud of dust was suffocating and hard to see. Residents upstairs ran through the door and shouted, many still in pajamas, and a man pushing a stroller.

I’m having difficulty breathing. When he successfully pushed his mother and sister into the street, the noise became loud.

“Run, run,” he ordered.

Small rocks and debris flicked his head as he turned around to face the image he was still annoying him.

“I saw the building turn into white dust,” he says. “I heard people screaming.”

“I have to go back. I have to make sure everyone is okay,” he said.

But he knew it was too late.


On the 11th floor, Albert Aguero was staring unbelievably at the gapped holes in the elevator shaft.

Half of the next apartment was cut off. The power has turned off. Aguero wondered if it was hit by a lightning strike. A healthy 42-year-old former college athlete was on vacation from New Jersey with his wife Janet, 14-year-old daughter Athena, and 22-year-old son Justin Willis, a college baseball player.

His son thought the plane had crashed into a building, but when they rushed into the stairwell, he spent most of his time wondering if he had enough time to get off the eleven painstaking floors. There wasn’t. No one was in a hurry or crying.

“I didn’t have time to react. Just do your move.”

Each time they descended to another level, they shouted floors, a small victory in survival, and a ground floor close to freedom.

I didn’t have enough time to look back. Instead, they frequently called on each other.

“Justin, are you still there?”

“Babe, are you okay?”

When they reached the fifth floor, Janet heard the sound of hitting the stairs. She pryed open the frozen door, and several more joined them on the stairs, including a young woman holding an older woman.

She asked Aguero and his son to help an older woman while they continued to descend. There were some cracks and crevices in the stairwell, but nothing couldn’t pass.

Still, the pace was too big for women.

“Don’t worry about me. I’m 88 years old. I have a good life,” she said.

However, Aguero decided. They all intended to bring it to life. They moved carefully and quickly, never pushing or trampling.

“You will be fine,” he reassured her. “We will make sure you reach 89.”


On the ninth floor, Reisa Rodriguez and her neighbor Yadira Santos flocked to the hallway with Santos’ 10-year-old son Kai and a Maltese puppy. They had already seen the other half of the building gone and thought the stairwell was gone.

She thought their only escape was to wait on the balcony until the fire truck arrived. In the turmoil, her brother Fred called — he hurried to the building and stood outside. He kept repeating the same urgent warning.

“Get out of there, get out,” he pleaded.

She said there was no escape and claimed that the stairs were gone.

A firefighter grabbed Fred’s phone and issued a chilling order.

“You need to find an escape route.”

They decided to try the stairwell again. When they reached the 8th floor, they found 84-year-old Adalopes waiting with her pedestrians. Santos called to warn her.

Rodriguez rushed to see if there was an escape route, as others helped the elderly Lopez in the stairwell and bumped into the Aguero family and the Alberto Lopez clan along the way.

But when Rodriguez arrived in the flooded parking garage, she turned around.

“I knew there was a possibility of electrocution,” Rodriguez feared.

They hurried back upstairs and someone left the apartment door open. Outside the balcony, they flagd the rescue team outside and a cherry picker took them safely.

Returning to the stairwell, Alfredo Lopez panicked. There were no hugs or emotional words. He was dissatisfied with his wife’s choice to wear slippers to navigate their worst nightmares.

“What were you thinking,” he exclaimed.

When they arrived on the second or third floor, Susana Alvarez in 1006 was knocking on the atrium door of the staircase. Her 88-year-old neighbor, Esther Gofinkel, was by her side.

When Alvarez escaped from the apartment, she finally knocked on her neighbor’s door with a cell phone flashlight in the dark. She screamed from the destroyed side of the building.

“Help, help,” she heard the woman crying.

“There were living people there,” she says quietly.

Alvarez, 62, had just brought his cat Mia to the building a week ago. A few days later, she was planning to move her mother to a condo. Alvarez is the only family left to care for the mother who developed Alzheimer’s disease.

When Gofinkel and her got off, Alvarez paused and thought of Hildanoriega on the sixth floor. She was like a family. They spent many holidays together. Noriega and her mother have been best friends since their days in Cuba.

“Can I save her or can I take her?” She wondered desperately. “But I was already looking at the building, so I continued.”

Gofinkel complained that they were moving too fast, her knees were causing her terrible pain. Without thinking, Lopez threw her over her shoulder and pushed her.

“The five of us are now like caravans,” he said.

Alvarez couldn’t stop talking about cats.

“Forget about the cat,” Lopez shouted at a moment of frustration. “We have to get started.”

When they arrived at the flooded parking lot, one car was on top of another and was crushed by a huge concrete slab.

Alvarez panicked. She wore slippers like Lopez’s wife. It was too expensive to climb the rubble to the pool deck. The Aguero family had their father and son lift Golphinkel onto the rubble and reach the pool deck in front of them.

“I can’t get it done,” she thought. Her hands were covered in blood, but she wasn’t scratched and didn’t know where she came from.

A few days later, Gofinkel called Agueros and thanked her for saving her life. Alvarez also asserts that he would not have survived without the Lopez family.

“Thanks to him and his son, we were able to climb the rubble.”


A few days later, Agueros, Nil and Lopez’s family, and their little Ragtag team are all safe. They hug their children and siblings more tightly, knowing that many of their neighbors will never come back and that they will never hug their loved ones.

They don’t have a house. It’s all gone. Clothes, computers, cars and even prescriptions. They say it’s inconvenient, but it doesn’t really matter. They are alive.

At night they still hear screams, and it all comes back in a hurry.

“For the first few days, I had a terrifying feeling of survivor guilt,” said Lopez, a very religious man.

Gabriel Nil had a hard time sleeping. He’s been busy trying to push away what-if.

“It’s like a virus. It never goes away,” he says unfortunately. “I wish I could have done more … the missing people wouldn’t come back.”

His family is packed in a nearby donated hotel room. His voice is filled with adrenaline, and a few days later he speaks as if he were fast-forwarding, clipped, and desperate, like his escape.

“Check out your loved one … it’s just one life,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen in the next hour today, tomorrow.”

Alvarez is also full of sadness. Her mother’s best friend, Hilda Noriega, is among the dead.

She hadn’t been in bed since that night, so she couldn’t crawl under the cover and instead slept in a chair.

“People in the rubble, I could hear their voice. Some shouted,’Help,'” she says.

“It bothers me forever. I will never forget it.”

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