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Moni Basu and UFCJC Alumna Share Three Stories of Healing and Hope One Year After the Surfside Condo Collapse

Moni Basu, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications (UFCJC) Michael and Linda Connelly Lecturer for Narrative Nonfiction, and Natalia Galicza, B.S. Journalism 2022, are the co-authors of “Rising From the Rubble: Three Miamians On Healing and Hope One Year After the Surfside Condo Collapse” published in Flamingo magazine on June 21.

Basu and Galicza share the stories of three people: a survivor, an emergency room physician, and a town commissioner. They all recall how the collapse of the Champlain Towers South killed 98 people and upended the lives of many others including themselves.

Survivor Susana Alvarez woke to building tremors. She quickly made it through the hellscape and realized that while she survived, her unit and 55 others were gone, and the life she knew had crumbled.

“[Alvarez] realized she had to remain patient with herself if she ever wanted to rebuild. She had to slow down and navigate her emotional obstacles alone,” the authors wrote. “Now, when the traffic on Miami’s Alton Road is bumper-to-bumper, Alvarez lets other cars squeeze past hers with a wave and a smile. She gives people chances. She knows what a difference another chance can make.”

Emergency room physician Ben Abo, who was trained for disaster response, was propelled into action.  One year later he still struggles with the memories.

Natalia Galicza
Moni Basu

According to the authors, “He arrived at Champlain Towers to stand before a giant pile of rubble. What he heard were the cries and screams of people who hours before had gone about their mundane lives. His team traveled up through a collapsed part of the parking garage, through thigh-high water. The thought of electrocution crossed his mind. Or what if the rest of the building came crashing down? It was the start of a harrowing 29 days of rescue operations.”

For former Surfside town commissioner Eliana Salzhauer recalls the chaos of distressed survivors arriving in droves at the Community Center, which still haunts her.

“Crying children in pajamas shuffled inside, families clutched pool towels to use as blankets. She couldn’t pull bodies trapped under the rubble, couldn’t counsel survivors through grief. But she listened to her constituents, talked to them. She fed them. Clothed them in clean T-shirts. And stayed with them through the night,” they wrote.

They add, “Salzhauer still struggles to sleep. She’s never had a conventional circadian rhythm, but now another factor keeps her awake at night. She knows there is work to be done in Surfside. And even when she finally finds rest, she shuts her eyes only to envision the town’s next steps.”

Posted: June 22, 2022
Category: Alumni News, College News, Diversity News
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