AVENTURA, FLA. (WSVN) – – Without exception, it has been a long and difficult road to recovery for those whose lives were upended by the collapse. Scores of lives were changed forever. 7’s Kevin Ozebek spoke to some about what they’ve endured over the last year.
Susana Alvarez was in unit 1006.
Susana Alvarez: “It was like a very loud and long thunder.”
Steve Rosenthal owned unit 705.
Steve Rosenthal: “I get hit with a plume of smoke, like a sonic boom, which just knocks me against the kitchen wall.”
And Oren Cytrynbaum luckily left his unit, 905, just hours before the collapse.
Oren Cytrynbaum: “I just broke down in tears and started bawling, and I had to curl into a ball in a corner just to regain my composure.”
All three called the Champlain South Tower home until the sudden and horrifying collapse.
Oren Cytrynbaum: “Whenever I drive by that site, I have this frustration, anger, confusion and disappointment, because I really bought that home thinking I’ll be there, comfortable here, for the next 20 years.”
After the building came crashing down, Oren had just his wallet and the clothes he was wearing.
Oren Cytrynbaum: “Passport, birth certificate, green card, all that gone.”
He’s now living in a rental on Miami Beach.
Kevin Ozebek: “Does this feel like home now or no?”
Oren Cytrynbaum: “No, it still feels temporary.”
Oren wasn’t inside the building when it collapsed, but Steve was. When he tried to escape, he found himself stuck.
He snapped a picture of debris blocking his exit before firefighters saved him with a cherry picker. He shot cellphone video to document his view.
Steve is now living in a one-bedroom condo apartment in Brickell.
Steve Rosenthal: “I had to buy a bucket, a broom, a dustpan — everything you could think of, that you can’t even think of.”
But he also struggles to call this home.
Steve Rosenthal: “I’m afraid. I’m 73 years old; I’m not 35. Is the rent going to go up $200, $400, $600, $1,000? I don’t know, and that’s what really keeps me up at night.”
Susana just bought a one-bedroom condo in Miami Beach since she escaped Champlain South with nearly nothing.
For now, her condo is empty.
Susana Alvarez: “Unless you experience it, you don’t know how hard it is to lose everything. It’s like trying to get through an obstacle course. I tell people my life is like a puzzle, and every day I find a missing piece that I need to go looking for.”
And for Susana, Steve and Oren, one of the biggest puzzles they want solved is why the collapse happened.
Susana Alvarez: “Every single day, I see something that reminds me of Champlain Towers or the people that lived there. I lived, they died. Why? And could something have been done? Could something have been done for them not to die?”
Steve Rosenthal: “It’s starting to hit me now, you know, emotionally. You think about it, you know. ‘Why am I alive?’ It begins to hit you, and it’s hard.”
Oren Cytrynbaum: “We cry every day for those lost souls, and we don’t take it for granted that we did survive.”
Now, after a year of mourning their neighbors and building back their lives, these survivors say they are trying hard to look forward.
Oren Cytrynbaum: “It’s far from normal, but each month gets a little better, as you separate further and further from that night and tragedy.”
Steve Rosenthal: “I don’t want those 98 people to have died in vain. Lessons will have to be learned that will hopefully have saved hundreds, if not thousands of people down the road.”
Susana Alvarez: “As tragic as it is, and it is extremely tragic, it has given me an awakened sense to appreciate life better. And every morning I do get up and I say, ‘Wait a minute. What’s going on? Everything OK? Everybody’s alive? It’s a good day. It’s a good day. It’s a good day. I’m alive.’”
So, on a day where we remember the 98 lives tragically lost, there are also dozens of survivors who have seen their lives dramatically forever changed.
Kevin Ozebek, 7News.
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