By COLlive reporter
With 152 people still missing and the death count at 9 after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Florida, miracle stories have emerged from a number of the survivors.
Sterna Sarah Nir, a Lubavitch woman whose family moved into the oceanfront condominium some 11 months ago, was one of the people who were able to make it out alive before the 12-story building collapsed and turned into rubble on Thursday.
On that night, Nir participated in a Chassidic farbrengen celebrating Yud Beis and Yud Gimmel Tammuz, the auspicious days on the Chabad calendar marking the liberation of the Rebbe Rayatz from Soviet imprisonment for spreading Judaism.
She returned to her home on Collins Avenue at around 12:30 AM. “I was sitting in the office, going through emails and the like, and I started hearing noises,” she told the COL news website.
Nir described the noises as sounding like “construction knocks” and was disturbed that they were being made at such a late hour, with her son and daughter fast asleep in nearby rooms.
“I thought someone had decided to renovate their apartment in the middle of the night,” she said. “At first, I ignored it. But a few minutes later I became upset about it and left the apartment.”
Nir says she went to the lobby of the building where she met the security guard sitting at the entrance. She reported about the noise and asked him to call the police to make a complaint.
“As I was standing in the lobby, I saw the parking lot of the building collapsing, like an abyss that has opened up beneath it,” she recalled. “I was in shock. My thought was that these (noises) are not renovations. This is an earthquake!”
She once again turned to the security guard and ask to call the police, this time reporting an earthquake. “There was a very loud noise,” she told him.
Nir then quickly returned to her condo and woke her 15-year-old and 25-year-old children (her husband and other children were out of town). She urged them to leave the house as fast as they could.
“We left the building Within a minute and started running down the street, as far as we could,” she said.
“I heard a huge noise behind me, but I didn’t want to turn around,” she added. “A huge cloud of dust flooded the space. I thought the end of the world had come.”
Still convinced that it was an earthquake, Nir and her children continued running around the streets with no way of contacting others, since her phone was in the collapsed building.
“I didn’t think it was real,” her son Gabe Nir told ABC News in Miami. “I thought it was a dream. There were a lot of rumbling noises going around and it got more intense.”
Sarah Nir said a person then stopped her and offered help, stating that he was Jewish and had served in the IDF. He took them to a local hotel and booked them a room (which was later paid for by the Red Cross).
She said they only found out the magnitude of what happened hours later. The building suffered a partial pancake collapse at about 1:20 a.m. EDT on June 24, 2021. First, the north-central section of the building collapsed and then the northeast corner collapsed approximately nine seconds later. Of the 136 units in the building, 55 were destroyed.
“I had a big miracle that we escaped in the last few seconds,” she said. “I believe in miracles and Hashem has shown me signs. Baruch Hashem, I was able to escape from the destruction.”