‘Dark pit of pain’: families grieve victims lost to unimaginable in condo collapse

The names of the victims from the Surfside condo disaster have so far come at a slow yet steady trickle. But behind each of the names comes a story, of love and compassion; of family and deep friendships; and of a once tight-knit community in a south Florida condo block lost to the unimaginable.

They include a couple married for six decades, who were the rocks of their family as parents, grandparents and later as great-grandparents; a young man who achieved his dream as a graphic designer despite the challenges of muscular dystrophy, e his mother who dedicated her life to caring for him.

They were Jewish immigrants from Venezuela who came to build a better life for the generations to follow; il mother of a local police chief who just celebrated her 92nd birthday; e il father of girls aged 4 e 11, who are still missing in the rubble along with their mother.

They include a Little League baseball coach remembered fondly by scores of youngsters he helped nurture; and a 54-year-old mother whose teenage son Jonah was one of the earliest faces of the tragedy when his rescue from the wreckage was captured on video.

Their lives within Champlain Towers South were individual, separate and diverse, and they came from a wide range of nationalities e religions. Ma, along with those of the dozens still unaccounted for, they were also inextricably intertwined.

Most of the residents of the 130-apartment block knew each other well, they shared time together at the pool or on the beach; watched each others’ children grow and carve their own paths in life. Others would pray together in church, or at a local synagogue.

Jonathan Berkun, a chaplain with the Miami Beach police department and a rabbi at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, said the victims, the missing, and the families left behind are all bound by that sense of community.

“While speaking with many members of our synagogue, I would ask if they knew anyone who is missing. Often, they would detail a family tree that only a genealogist could follow, something like, ‘my second cousin’s wife’s sister’s ex-husband’s father’,” he said in an emotional Facebook post.

Relatives of Antonio and Gladys Lozano, Cuban immigrants who fled Fidel Castro’s communist revolution more than six decades ago, spoke of how the two would do anything for anyone, especially their family.

“My dad would take my mom to work at 3 o’clock in the morning, come back home, continue sleeping, take my brother to school at 8am and then go to work,” Sergio Lozano, 56, disse in an interview with Miami news station CBS4.“They did it all for us. They always wanted to go together, and they did, that’s the only peace I have from this.”

The Lozanos would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary in July.

Ana Ortiz, 46, was newly married to a longstanding boyfriend, who is still missing. But the real love of her life was her son Luis Bermudez, 26, a graphic designer with his own clothing line, whom she doted on and cared for during his battle with muscular dystrophy.

“They are in heaven, and they left together. They died together,” her sister, Nicole Ortiz, said in a Spanish-language interview in El Nuevo Día.

“I will miss you all my life,” Ortiz’s first husband and Luis Bermudenz’s father, also called Luis, said of his son in a Facebook post. “God decided that he wanted one more angel in heaven. I still do not believe it.”

Similar messages posted on social media by victims’ relatives and friends, and on the memorial walls that have sprung up close to the disaster site in Surfside, are testament to the pain, Berkun, the Miami Beach rabbi, disse.

“The suffering here is profound, and it has rippled throughout the entire Miami community. It no longer matters what language we speak, where we came from, what denomination we call ourselves or which shul we belong to. We are all connected. We are sitting in this dark pit of pain and suffering together," scrisse.

“May we find a way through this devastation, somehow, together.”

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