By Ruthy Benoliel
It is hard to put into words the anguish that so many people in Miami and all over the world have suffered over the last two weeks since the collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24, 2021. In seconds, our whole community was put to the most dreadful test ever imagined. The pain we feel is a surreal and an overwhelming sense of loss. As we watched the news over and over again, nothing made sense. Within hours our community came together to help support and comfort the bereaved families and pray for miracles.
Immediately, organizations and thousands of volunteers came together to collect, pack, deliver, feed, find accommodation, lend a helping hand, or be there to give a hug. People put a pause on their lives to be on call for whatever need arose. Teams of first responders from the USA and other countries, including police, firefighters, engineers, governmental authorities, mental health professionals, and our dear IDF rescue soldiers, became our hope. The search and rescue mission became the priority for all those heroes that not only had to deal with the consequences of the collapse, but with several fires, rain, hurricane winds, the shifting of the remaining structure, the controlled demolition of the left-over structure, and exasperation of not finding people alive. Each corner of our streets was filled with police, checkpoints, and access by car was almost impossible.
It felt like a war zone!
The human touch and sensitivity towards each other were always present. We witnessed IDF soldiers break down and cry; the sergeant who gave us the daily reports kept trying to control his tears, and rescue teams needing emotional help as this tragedy consumed their lives. Grieving families, rescue teams, volunteers, people from different faiths and religions became one.
Champlain Towers was extremely special for my family. It was my home for many years. It was the place where my husband picked me up on our first date, where we got engaged, where three of my four children were born, where beautiful memories were made and will never be erased. Many of my old neighbours, friends, and acquaintances were there the night of the collapse; some were spending only one night in the building.
Over the last two weeks, we all have felt numb, waiting for the next briefing to give the latest answers, holding hands, crying collectively, and feeling the agony of the victim’s families. There is nothing to be said that can alleviate this grueling pain.
A few days ago, the search and rescue mission transitioned into recovery with a moment of silence. When the IDF colonel spoke, he said:
“Look at me in my eyes. I promise we did everything possible to find your loved ones.”
Even though there was despair and agony in hearing those words, there was gratitude and love that filled the room. Many have started to mourn their loved ones, who unfortunately did not survive this catastrophe.
There are no answers, just tears.
Where do we go from here? It will take an exceptionally long time to process what has happened and to ease this ache. I know for sure that we will be there for each other every step of the way. We are blessed to live in this loving community. We will forever have in our hearts the beautiful children, and people who perished on the collapse of Champlain Towers South, and we will continue to pray for their Neshamas. (“souls”)
About the writer:
Ruthy Benoliel is Vice-President of WIZO USA and is based in Miami.
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