The dead and unaccounted for residents of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, reflect the area’s rich cultural diversity. The international tragedy has touched members of a tight-knit Jewish community and families from as far away as Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia.
Scores of people remain unaccounted for after the collapse of part of the 13-story residential building. Search and rescue teams have been feverishly scouring the site since shortly after 55 of the building’s 136 units fell at around 1:30 a.m. on June 24.
The death toll stood at 86 as of Saturday morning, officials said. The victims range in age from 4 to 92.
Among the victims who have been publicly identified are: Ingrid Ainsworth, 66; Tzvi Ainsworth, 68; Michael David Altman, 50; Luis Bermudez, 26; Claudio Bonnefoy, 85; Maria Obias-Bonnefoy, 69; Andrea Cattarossi, 56; Gino Cattarossi, 89; Graciela Cattarossi, 86; Graciela Cattarossi, 48; Stella Cattarossi, 7; Gary Cohen, 58; Magaly Elenda Delgado, 80; Bonnie Epstein, 56; David Epstein, 58; Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74; Stacie Fang, 54; Francis Fernandez, 67; Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21; Emma Guara, 4; Lucia Guara, 11; Marcus Joseph Guara, 52; Frank Kleiman, 55; Jay Kleiman, 52; Manuel LaFont, 54; Nancy Kress Levin, 76; Antonio Lozano, 82; Gladys Lozano, 80; Gloria Machado, 71; Ruslan Manashirov, 36; Juan Alberto Mora Jr., 32; Hilda Noriega, 92; Leon Oliwkowicz, 80; Anna Ortiz, 46; Anaely Rodriguez, 42; Harold Rosenberg, 52; Elaine Lia Sabino, 71; Simon Segal, 80; and Gonzalo Torre, 81.© Courtesy Spiegel Family Judy Spiegel.
Sixty-two victims have been identified. The number of people who are unaccounted for is 43, authorities said Saturday.
Authorities made the decision to shift the search effort from rescue to recovery on Wednesday.
Here’s what we know about those confirmed dead and those still unaccounted for.
Gone but not forgotten
Bonnie Epstein, 56 and David Epstein, 58
Jonathan Epstein lost both his parents, David, 58, and Bonnie, 56, who were asleep on the 9th floor when the building collapsed.© Courtesy Nicole Mejias Graciela and Gino Cattarossi
He told CNN he had reached out to his mother from the family’s Brooklyn home about an hour before the collapse to share a song with her, knowing she’d still be up because “we were both night owls.”© JLNphotography/Sipa USA/AP Yube Pettingill says two of her family members are still missing in the collapse.
“We bonded over music a lot, so it was just a really quick text,” he said.
Right before he decided to head to bed, a news alert on his phone about a building collapse caught his attention, and he texted his mother again — but that message was never received.
He called multiple times, but never got a response. Last week, detectives informed him his parents had been recovered from the rubble.
The couple grew up in northeast Philadelphia and attended high school and college in the city before meeting and settling down in Bucks County, according to CNN affiliate WPVI. Several years ago, they sold their Holland Township home and split their time between Brooklyn, Miami and their home in Ventnor, New Jersey.
They had just celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary two months before the collapse, and were now enjoying early retirement — often filling their time with activities like scuba diving and kite surfing.
“This is so weird and surreal that it’s breaking in slowly and for the time being I just want to live in my parents’ memory, to live the way that I think they’d want me to live and to honor their lives,” Jonathan told CNN.
“They were just the best,” he added.
David and Bonnie’s funeral and memorial services will be held on Monday, July 12, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In lieu of any gifts, Jonathan is asking that people consider supporting Saving the Blue, a marine wildlife conservation non-profit his parents were dedicated to.
“Thank you to everyone for your kind words over this impossible week, my parents were really the best and it’s been so comforting to relive the joy of their lives through the testimony of friends and loved ones,” Jonathan wrote on Facebook.
“My parents touched so many lives in so many beautiful ways, and I’m relieved that we will be able to give them the memorial that they deserve,” he wrote on July 6.
Marcus Guara, 52; Lucia Guara, 11; Emma Guara, 4; Anaely Rodriguez, 42
Among the youngest victims identified so far are 11-year-old Lucia Guara and 4-year-old Emma Guara; they are the daughters of 52-year-old Marcus Guara, whose body was recovered on June 26. His wife, 42-year-old Anaely Rodriguez, also died in the collapse.
Three caskets were carried into St. Joseph’s Catholic Church for the Guara family’s funeral Tuesday. Emma and Lucia were placed in the same casket, a decision made by the family according to the family’s priest, Juan Sosa.
The church, which is a few blocks from the site of the collapse, was filled with relatives and friends of the parents and their children. There were many moving moments, Sosa said; but he vividly remembers the friends of the children crying and embracing their parents.
“Family members were clinging on each other and that’s good because they were able to hold one another and support one another,” Sosa said.
Sosa says that up to a dozen members of his congregation are unaccounted for. He knows at least four of them very well. Two weeks after the collapse, Sosa says he is still in shock. He has not had time to grieve.
“Let us appreciate the quality of life more than the quantity,” Sosa said. “More than what we have, is who we are as family.”
Friends said Marcus adored his two daughters and was the kindest man who would give the shirt off his back, according to CNN affiliate WSVN. Lucia loved singing, outer space and family, and Emma was described as a princess who loved building obstacle courses in the living room and her family.
Guara’s employer, Kassatex New York’s CEO and founder Ernesto Khoudari, sent the following statement to CNN in an email:
“The Kassatex family is deeply saddened over the loss of Marcus Guara and his beautiful family. From the moment he started working with us, his creativity, vivacity for the business, charming smile, and never give up attitude fueled his passion for our company, and his relationships he made along the way. He was an amazing asset to the team and will be missed immensely.”
Graciela Cattarossi and Stella Cattarossi, 7
Stella Cattarossi, the 7-year-old daughter of a City of Miami Fire Rescue employee, was recovered from the rubble of the tower along with her mother Graciela, a family member confirmed.
Graciela’s niece, Nicole Mejias, told CNN’s Natasha Chen that the pair were in the condo with three other family members when the building collapsed.
“We just miss them so much already,” Mejias said. “We wish this tragedy didn’t happen, and will always remember them.”
Gino Cattarossi, 89; and Graciela Cattarossi, 86, were also identified as victims.
Ruslan Manashirov, 36
Recently married Ruslan Manashirov and Nicole Doran Manashirov were missing, Ruslan’s sister-in-law told CNN affiliate News 12 Connecticut.
Miami-Dade police identified Manashirov on July 8 as being among those who died.
Ruslan grew up in Bergen Beach in New York City and worked as a physician, his sister-in-law told News 12 Connecticut. Nicole grew up in Pittsburgh, CNN affiliate KDKA reported, citing friends.
Leah Caliguire told KDKA that she said stayed at the couple’s Champlain Towers South condo last month. “It was a beautiful building, you would never think anything like this could possibly happen,” she said.
Magaly Elena Delgado, 80
Delgado’s daughter, Magaly Ramsey, spoke with CNN about her 80-year-old mother.
“My mom was a very independent woman. She came from Cuba, worked hard to make her way and was trying to live her best life at this moment, by the beach, by the water, which she loves,” Ramsey said.
Delgado had been living in Champlain Towers for the last 10 years on the ninth floor, Ramsey said. She loved living in the building and had a close-knit group of friends.
Ramsey was at a conference in Orlando when she heard about the collapse.
“She actually called me Wednesday night when I was at the conference. I wasn’t able to talk to her because I was at a meeting at the time. I was like ‘I’ll call her tomorrow morning’ and that never happened,” Ramsey said.
The next morning she saw news about collapse.
“Never in a thousand years did I think that was her building or that her building was just not there anymore.”
Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21
Giannitsopoulos was a student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, according to the university.
The university said it has reached out to the family of Giannitsopoulos to offer its support.
“We extend our deepest condolences to Andreas’ family, friends, classmates and faculty as they deal with this unimaginable tragedy,” a statement read. “Our thoughts continue to be with all affected by the disaster as they await news of their loved ones and mourn those lost.”
Joe Malouf, Giannitsopoulos’ high school track coach in Houston, told CNN he hopped on a plane to Florida with Giannitsopoulos’ mother when news broke about the collapse.
Malouf said 21-year-old Giannitsopoulos arrived in Surfside a couple weeks ago to stay with a “dear family friend” in the Champlain Towers.
“He was expected to come home a day before the collapse, but his friend wanted him to stay a bit longer so they could spend a bit more time together,” Malouf said.
The family and Maloujf headed to the site of the collapse hoping to be nearer to Giannitsopoulos, Malouf said.
“We had gone to the site to get as close to him as we could,” Malouf said. “The kids that I coach know how loud my voice is. I was screaming for him to come out, that we’re here and just to be patient. Because of how loud my voice is, I know he would have heard it.”
Malouf coaches track at St. Thomas High School in Houston and met Giannitsopoulos when he tried out for the team as a freshman.
Malouf said Giannitsopoulos was “very good natured, conscientious, hardworking, first on and last off the field, wanted to know more to get better — that’s just his athletics.”
“As a student, Andreas was a high-A student and taking not just your basic courses, but taking AP courses. He was very intelligent,” the coach said.
Beyond his academics and athletics, Giannitsopoulos was an avid horticulturalist, Malouf said. The college student would carry seeds wherever he traveled, ready to plant them.
Malouf said his relationship with Giannitsopoulos developed from coach-athlete to a close friendship.
They became workout partners at the gym and their friendship stayed close even when Giannitsopoulos went away to college. The pair would work out together at the gym when he was back home for the summer.
“When he came home from college, I felt like I was the first person he would call,” Malouf said. “Our relationship was very close. From my perspective, he was like my little brother.”
Michael Altman, 50
Nick Altman describes his dad Michael, 50, as a selfless man who had a love for life, racquetball, and his family.
“He wasn’t just my dad, he was my best friend, and I would tell him about everything,” Nick said. “Every success I had I would grab my phone or drive by to see him, every troubling situation, I spoke to him right away.”
Michael would text his son twice a day to check in, once in the morning and once at night. The morning after the collapse, the chilling silence of his phone told Altman something was wrong.
Altman told CNN his dad was a dual citizen and came to the US from Costa Rica when he was 4, and the condo on the 11th floor of the building had been in their family since the 1980’s when it was built.
Michael was a champion racquetball player in his younger days, according to Altman, and shared that gift with his two sons, who frequently let him use his skills against them.
“Playing racquetball with my dad is one of my favorite memories,” Altman said. “He taught me and my brother Jeffery how to play racquetball and playing games of 21 trying to beat him … we never beat him once.”
Michael was also a great friend to his neighbors in the complex; Nick said several survivors have asked for him. “He’s just a one-of-a-kind guy, no one can ever replace him or be like him in my life, I’ve never met someone as lovable as him,” Altman said.
Michael is survived by his sons, his parents Anita and Allen, and his sister Debbie.
Antonio Lozano, 82, and Gladys Lozano, 80
At a time when Gladys and Antonio Lozano’s family would have been planning for their 59th wedding anniversary celebration next month, their son Sergio was faced with preparing for their funeral.
The Lozanos lived on the ninth floor of Champlain Towers South. Antonio had been living out his dream of life on a beach.
Sergio Lozano had dinner with his parents hours before the collapse, he told CNN’s Randi Kaye. After dinner, he hugged and kissed his parents.
“That was it,” he said.
The son said he returned to his condo in another tower, just two blocks away.
He woke up at 1:30 a.m. when he heard what sounded like a tornado.
Sergio Lozano recalled that he could once see his parents’ kitchen from his apartment. Now it was gone.
“I could see my mom cooking … when night would fall,” he said. “Their kitchen, where my dad would sit and watch TV, it wasn’t there.”
Sergio Lozano said he held onto hope they would be found alive in the hours after the collapse. But the couple died in bed, where their bodies were found, authorities would tell their son.
“That’s the end of the romantic story,” he said. “They were together.”
Their love story spanned nearly 60 years. They met in Cuba when they were just 12. Antonio migrated to the US first. He then sent for Gladys. They married on Miami Beach.
The Lozanos leave two children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Gladys was godmother to Phil Ferro, chief meteorologist for CNN affiliate WSVN. Antonio was Ferro’s uncle.
“They were such beautiful people,” Ferro wrote on social media. “May they Rest in Peace.”
Sergio Lozano said his parents often joked about who might die first.
“My dad would say to my mom, ‘If you die, I don’t even know how to fry an egg. I’m going to die,'” he recalled. “And my mom would say that if my dad would die, ‘I don’t even know how to pay the bills,’ and I always told my mom, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll go and do it.'”
“But they died together,” Sergio Lozano added. “It’s not fair — being crushed, being destroyed. It’s not fair.”
The couple perished in the collapse, along with all their possessions.
Sergio Lozano bought a new dress and suit in which to bury his parents.
Manuel LaFont, 54
Adriana LaFont says the memories of their time together between walls that no longer stand will be forever engraved in her heart.
Her former husband, Manuel LaFont, died in the collapse of the south tower, where Adriana LaFont said they lived together for nearly 10 years, CNN affiliate KTRK reported.
Manny LaFont, as he was known to family and friends, was a Houston native and a graduate of Sharpstown High School, family members told the station.
“My kids were born there,” Adriana LaFont said of the condo she shared with her former husband. “They learned how to swim in that pool. We had birthday parties, first communions, baptisms. So many memories.”
Days after the collapse, Adriana LaFont wrote an emotional post on Facebook, along with photos of the many special moments the family shared at the condo complex.
“So many memories within the walls that are no longer there will forever be engraved in the heart!,” she wrote. “My Manny, who was my partner for so many years, father of my children, who scolds me and loves me at the same time. Adriana be on time!! Adriana don’t change the plans!! Adriana, Adriana…”
She added, “Manny, Daddy, we want to hug you again and tell you how much we love you!”
Ana Ortiz, 46; Luis Bermúdez Jr., 26; Frank Kleiman, 55
Luis Bermúdez and his mother, Ana Ortiz, were confirmed as victims of the collapse on Sunday.
Ortiz’s sister Nicole said the agony of waiting for news of their fate is indescribable.
“I screamed,” she told CNN’s Ryan Young. “I’ve almost fainted. I’ve cried.”
Nicole Ortiz said she turned to her faith for help. She said she asked God for a miracle on the third day after the collapse.
“You always have the hope that a miracle could happen,” Nicole Ortiz said. “For me, a miracle happened. I asked God that it happen on the third day … On the third day my sister and my nephew were found and the agony of the waiting stopped.”
She asked for prayers that the wait also ends for other families. If she could, Nicole Ortiz said, she would climb the rubble herself to help with the search.
She described her big sister as her “protector” and “a great mom” who gave her son — who had muscular dystrophy — “the best days of his life.”
“They were all happy,” she said of Ana Ortiz, Bermúdez and Kleiman.
Bermúdez studied graphic design and created a t-shirt line called Saucy Boyz Clothing.
A tag on one of his shirts reads: “Despite the poor mobility of my hands and fingers because of my muscular dystrophy — I have achieved my dream because of my attitude.”
“There are no limits,” the tag says. “The perspective with which you look at things, at life and at the world, can be the key to you success.”
His father and Ana Ortiz’s former partner, Luis Bermúdez, remembered his son in a Facebook post.
“Luiyo of my life, I miss you with every beat of my heart. I know you are with your mom in heaven, resting in peace and without any obstacles, you are free,” Luis Bermúdez wrote of his son.
Frank Kleiman, who Luis Bermúdez identified as Ortiz’s current partner, was also identified by authorities as a victim of the collapse.
Jay Kleiman, 52, and Nancy Kress Levin, 76
His brother, Jay Kleiman, was later also identified as a victim along with their mother Nancy Kress Levin. Rabbi Sholom Lipskar said they were members of the Shul of Bal Harbour synagogue.
Jay Kleiman, who lived in Puerto Rico, was visiting Surfside to attend a funeral of one of his childhood friends who died of Covid-19, according to childhood friend Mark Eiglarsh.
Eiglarsh spoke to Alisyn Camerota on June 28 on CNN Newsroom when Jay Kleiman was missing.
At that time, Eiglarsh said Jay Kleiman was an “extraordinary human being.” He recalled Kleiman’s “extraordinary smile” and one-of-a-kind personality. Eiglarsh went on to say that Kleiman was “just filled with love and happiness and joy and gratitude before we learned that that really was what life’s about.”
Stacie Fang, 54
The first victim of the Surfside building collapse to be identified was 54-year-old Stacie Fang.
She is the mother of Jonah Handler, the boy who was pulled from the rubble alive, her family said in a statement.
“There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie,” the Fang and Handler family statement said.
“The members of the Fang and Handler family would like to express our deepest appreciation for the outpouring of sympathy, compassion and support we have received. The many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time.”
Hilda Noriega, 92
Michael Noriega said his 92-year-old grandmother had been living in the building for 20 years.
“She’s just so vibrant, full of energy, extremely independent. She’s probably the most popular person that I know, just tons of friends,” he said. “And she lives her life with her faith first, her family, second, and her friends, third.”
The North Bay Village Government, on behalf of the Noriega family, tweeted that Hilda Noriega perished in the collapse.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the tragic passing of Hilda Noriega, the mother of Police Chief Carlos Noriega.”
The family expressed their gratitude to first responders and local and state leaders.
“The Noriegas have lost their ‘heart and soul’ and ‘matriarch’ of their family, but we will get through this time by embracing the unconditional love Hilda was known for.”
Michael Noriega said his father rushed to the site as soon as they heard about the collapse.
Standing among debris, Michael Noriega’s father found a birthday card given to Hilda by friends, and another family member found two photos of her. One of the photos, taken years ago, showed Hilda and her husband posing with Michael’s father as a boy.
According to her priest, Juan Sosa from St. Joseph Catholic Church, she was found with rosaries on her body.
“Maybe she was saying a rosary when this happened,” Sosa said. “She’s with God.”
Noriega was a “feisty” woman and very independent, he said. Her final wish was to be laid to rest with her late husband.
“We are going to miss her,” Sosa said.
Maria Obias-Bonnefoy and Claudio Bonnefoy
Bettina Obias said her uncle Claudio Bonnefoy was a retired United Nations legal counsel and her aunt was an International Monetary Fund budget official.
Obias told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that as soon as she heard about the collapse, she went to the site herself.
“As soon as I saw this, I fell apart,” she said, referring to the rubble.
Claudio Bonnefoy was a relative of former Chilean President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
Family of Paraguay’s first lady and their nanny
The sister and brother-in-law of Paraguay’s first lady were identified among the dead by Miami-Dade officials.
Foreign Minister Euclides Acevedo confirmed to news outlets that the bodies of three Paraguyans had been recovered and identified as Sophia López Moreira, her husband Luis Pettengill and one of their three children. Sophia was the sister of first lady Silvana López Moreira.
Leidy Luna Villalba, the children’s 23-year-old nanny, was also identified as a victim by Miami-Dade officials. Paraguay’s government had previously said it was providing support for her family.
The family was staying at the building while in the US to receive Covid-19 vaccines, Paraguay’s ministry of external relations previously told CNN en Español.
In a statement, the ministry said President Mario Abdo Benítez would travel to the United States.
Vishal Patel, 42, and Bhavna Patel, 36
Vishal Patel and his wife, Bhavna Patel, were confirmed dead in the collapse, per Miami-Dade officials. Their 1-year-old daughter, Aishani, has not been identified among those who lost their lives.
Vishal’s niece Sarina Patel previously told CNN that Bhavna was four months pregnant.
Sarina Patel told CNN’s Chris Cuomo she last spoke to her family on Father’s Day.
“I had actually called them to tell them I had just booked a flight to come visit because they’ve been asking me to come see their home and to meet their daughter. I haven’t met her due to the pandemic.”
They were home at the time the collapse took place, Patel told Cuomo.
“We have tried calling them countless of times and there’s just been no answers, text messages, nothing,” she said. “They haven’t contacted anybody.”
Ilan Naibryf, 21, and Deborah Berezdivin, 21
Miami-Dade authorities confirmed 21-year-old Ilan Naibryf and 21-year-old Deborah Berezdivin were killed.
Naibryf and Berezdivin, his girlfriend, were staying at her family’s condo in the building while in town for a funeral, according to Naibryf’s parents, Ronit Felszer and Carlos Naibryf.
More than four days after the collapse, his family said they haven’t given up hope of seeing their son alive again, but they realized chances were slim.
“A miracle can come, yes, but we have to be very realistic,” Carlos Naibryf said.
“We have three amazing, amazing children. They have their significant others here supporting them, too,” Felszer said. “I’m embarrassed almost to even admit it: We thought we had the perfect family.”
Ilan “was a 21-year-old young adult. Bright. Everywhere he went, he made an impact,” his father said, adding that his son is a physics major at University of Chicago.
The unaccounted for
Estelle Hedaya loves to dance. She even calls herself Cha Cha Cha on social media.
Her Miami friends described the Brooklyn native, who lived in unit 604, as a free spirit who loves traveling and new experiences and documented them all on her blog, Follow the Toes.
“She’s so vibrant, so social,” said Luc Davidson, a friend who’s kept vigil at the Surfside hotel where authorities are updating loved ones on those still missing. “She loved spas, dancing and working out. She was so adventurous. She tried a new restaurant every Sunday.”
Hedaya works in the jewelry industry and shares details about her life and travels on Instagram.
Days before the building crumbled, she was in Las Vegas, a trip she documented with photos of her lounging poolside at Caesar’s Palace. Davidson said the last time they talked Hedaya was excited about her new car, a red Lexus she purchased a week before the condo collapsed.
“Now I really am the lady in red,” Hedaya posted on Instagram, alongside an image of the car.
In the comments, friends implored her to let them know that she’s OK.
“A lot of people love her,” Davidson said. “She’s so full of good energy. We are worried about her. We’re hoping for a miracle.”
Hedaya’s friends said she was living her best life as a single woman. On her blog, she calls herself a “New Yorker taking Miami by storm in the most fabulous fashion.”
In it she shared details of some of her dating misadventures and urged women to show themselves the same love they give others.
Her last blog entry was a love letter to single women everywhere.
“I am here to tell you, children and a husband do not define who you are. DO NOT allow anyone to tell you anything different!,” she wrote. “The circle of single friends that I left in NY, are all beautiful, smart, strong, successful and self sufficient women … They, like myself have chosen to be single rather than settling for an unfulfilling, unhappy relationship.”
Andrés Galfrascoli, Fabián Nuñez and their daughter among 9 missing Argentines
Argentines Andrés Galfrascoli, 45, his partner Fabián Nuñez, 55, and their daughter, Sofía Galfrascoli Núñez, 6, are among the missing, according to a friend.
The three were on vacation in Florida, staying at the condo of a friend, Nicolás Fernández.
“We don’t know anything, we don’t have any closure and that’s what hurts,” Fernández told CNN.
Fernández has looked for his friends in local hospitals with no luck.
Nine Argentines were missing, the country’s consulate in Miami said on Twitter.
6 Colombian citizens
Six Colombian citizens are unaccounted for following the collapse, Colombian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Camila Mugno told CNN on Friday.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether they were inside the building at the moment of the collapse. Records indicated that the six had been staying there, the foreign ministry’s office said.
The six Colombian citizens include a family of three from Medellin, and other travelers, Mugno told CNN.
Venezuelans also missing
“At the moment we are handling information from six Venezuelans not located in the collapse of the building in Surfside,” Brian Fincheltub, Venezuela’s consular affairs director, tweeted.
Jewish community members also missing
Some members from The Shul of Bal Harbour synagogue are among the people unaccounted for, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“This is something that transcends our capacity for understanding,” Lipskar said about the collapse. “It’s a reality, we accept it and we have to learn as we do in our culture of resilience to move forward.”
“The only thing that helps in these times is kindness and empathy and togetherness, because you can’t take away the reality,” Lipskar said.
Rabbi Zalman Lipskar told CNN’s Randi Kaye he believes at least 20 people associated with the Shul of Bal Harbour are missing. Their ages range from 20 to 60 years old.
He said he spoke with one woman who believes that she is missing seven or eight of her family members. He told CNN he also knows of a couple, both 26 years old, and a doctor who is a member of his synagogue, who are missing as well.
The rabbi said an older couple — the parents of his childhood friend — are also missing.
“It’s just been heart-wrenching … not knowing, and not being able to really deal with this magnitude of the tragedy that’s unfolding,” the rabbi said.
Rabbi Eliot Pearlson, who leads Temple Menorah, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “It’s hard to explain. This doesn’t happen in America. It’s doesn’t happen in Miami Beach. It doesn’t happen in our homes. And it’s very difficult to comprehend how it’s possible.”
Pearlson said that he saw people come together in compassion following the collapse, and his temple will host an emergency prayer service on Friday.
Three generations of one family from his temple are among those unaccounted for, he said.
He added, “I have to tell you, when I walked past ground zero, there was row after row after row of firefighters who are literally waiting to rush into a building that could fall at any time.”
Uruguayan citizens missing
Three Uruguayan citizens are among the missing, according to the consulate in Miami.
The consulate is in contact with local authorities and with the families of the people missing, said Consul General Eduardo Bouzout.
“The relatives are very concerned, of course, because they have not been able to contact them since they have knowledge of this tragic collapse,” said Bouzout in audio shared by the consulate with CNN.
Kevin Spiegel, who lived in Champlain Towers with his wife, Judy, said he was on a business trip in California when the building collapsed.
When he woke up in the middle of the night, he had an emergency notice on his phone, he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and he notified the rest of his family.
“We’re very hopeful that the community here will be able to find our loved ones,” said Josh Spiegel, Judy’s son, who lives in Orlando.
“My mom is an absolutely amazing person,” Josh Spiegel said. “She’s a fighter, and she fights for every single one of us, and we won’t stop … fighting until we find her,” he said.
“We have a lot of hope that Judy is still alive, and still there,” said Kevin Spiegel. “She’s an amazing person.”
Her daughter, Rachel Spiegel, last received a text from her mother around 9 p.m. Wednesday — roughly four and a half hours before the collapse, she told CNN.
That text was about a princess dress that Judy ordered for one of Rachel’s daughters. The family has been Judy’s main focus, Rachel said.
Judy has a bond with her grandchildren, and “the other kids that we hang out with, they love Grandma Judy — everybody calls her Grandma Judy,” Rachel said.
Cassondra Stratton, the wife of Michael Stratton, senior policy adviser with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, is among those still believed to be missing, his law firm’s spokesperson Lara Day told CNN.
3 members of Velasquez family
Three members of the Velasquez family are also believed missing after the building collapse, according to family members.
David Velasquez posted on Facebook that his parents, Julio Cesar Velasquez, 67, and Angela Maria Velasquez, 60, live in the building.
His sister Theresa Velasquez, 36, had come to visit her parents and was staying with them at the time of the collapse.
David Velasquez’s wife confirmed that they were missing in a text message to CNN. She said the family requests privacy at this time.
Debbie Hill said her father is missing in the building collapse.
“Not knowing is the big issue,” she told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “I have a relative who’s down there at the center and he gets more information off the news than he does being down there.”
“When they show the live views, you don’t realize how massive this is until you see a person standing on the top of the pile,” she said.
Hill said her father was in one of the top floors of the building.
“My dad was in air freight sales most of his life,” she said. “He had a lot of friends throughout the country, throughout the world. He loved what he did, he enjoyed fishing, he liked to travel. He was just getting ready to retire.”
“He was going to be training somebody that’s replacing him in the fall and then we got the phone call and everything in our world changed,” Hill said.
Gil and Betty Guerra
Gil Guerra and his wife, Betty Guerra, lived on the ninth floor of the building, his daughter said, and there has been no word from them since the tragedy.
“We’re doing our best to stay hopeful,” Michelle Guerra told CNN via Facebook Messenger on Saturday. “That’s what they would want.”
Her father and stepmother were in the process of moving out of apartment 910 and had just gotten furniture at their new apartment on Monday, she said.
The couple was renting, and the owner was in the process of selling the unit, according to Guerra, who said she said she last spoke to her dad on Father’s Day
“This is all so horrific and bizarre. They are both such caring, hardworking people,” Guerra said.
“They only got married late 2017 and have been living it up like two teenagers in love traveling the world and eating all they can together,” she said. “They lived a full time together.”