Building collapse in Miami
Building collapse in MiamiReuters

One of the residents of the collapsed condo building in Surfside, Florida has a harrowing story to tell of how she was rescued from her balcony shortly after the disaster occurred.

Miami Jewish Federation Women’s Philanthropy Director Ofi Osin-Cohen described in an interview with Today how she and most of the other residents of the building were sound asleep when she heard a weird sound that could have been thunder, but was different enough that it convinced her to wake up. Then she felt the whole building shake.

“We knew something was up. It rattled us,” she said. “We immediately got out of bed. We looked around. We looked out the window.”

Their apartment faced the street. She saw a “pool of smoke” rising up. She knew something was very wrong.

The smoke cloud was “a very unusual shape.”

Soon she spotted a police car pulling up to the building. She heard a neighbor yelling down, asking what was going on. The officer said that they weren’t sure yet. He was running around with a flashlight.

They decided to get out of their apartment. They put on their clothes, grabbed a few essentials and opened their door.

That was when she saw that the long hallway was covered in debris.

They tried to take the stairs to the pool deck. There were several other people in the stairwell with them. They discovered that the pool deck door was jammed.

So they continued down to the parking garage. There, they found themselves in ankle-deep water.

“We didn’t know what was going on at that point and we decided we weren’t going to be able to get out through there either,” she said.

They went back up the same stairs, taking two elderly people they’d just met with them.

They went back to her apartment.

“We decided to go out on the balcony and wave down fire rescue. They were heroes. They are just unbelievable human beings,” she said.

Firefighters were able to safely rescue all four of them using a bucket ladder.

“It is just overwhelming,” Osin-Cohen said. “When we opened the door to see all the building had collapsed, it was just really surreal.”

She said that they were some of the first residents to be rescued.

Once on the street, they walked five blocks to a community center that had been turned into an emergency response station.

Many other residents arrived after them.

She also described the traumatizing experience of initially walking down the stairs to the parking garage and hearing screams.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” she said. “We did hear screams but I couldn’t’ tell where they were coming from – from the rubble, from the apartments. People were on their balconies yelling to the firefighters. So I’m not exactly sure where the sounds were coming from.”

Osin-Cohen added, “I’m feeling really blessed and I just wish heartfelt condolences to those who’ve lost loved ones and prayers for those who need healing.”