Communal pain

Holding on to hope in South Florida

In Short

The hurt caused by not knowing is unbearable

Land subsistence? Faulty workmanship? Salt and erosion? A bomb? Everyone in my immediate network is feeling increasingly unsettled about the tragic condo collapse in South Florida and the suffering is everywhere. The waiting, not knowing, hoping, and praying. “It’s like 9-11 all over again,” said a friend. “They are digging through the rubble to find people.” One hundred and fifty-six people remain unaccounted for, and nine are confirmed dead (accurate at time of publication).

I moved to Miami from New York in 2007 and live about 15 minutes west of Surfside, a small Jewish community dotted with dozens of beachside condominiums. It took just a few hours, after the tragic news became public, for my social media feeds and neighborhood groups to become activated.

“Myriam Caspi Notkin and Arnie Notkin both live in the building in Surfside that collapsed today. If you have seen them, or have heard of their whereabouts, please let me know and I will get the information to Myriam’s daughters. We are desperately looking for them.”

“Please share!!!!! Michael Altman 50 years old missing from Surfside tragedy. A loving son, brother, daddy, uncle and friend to so many. If you have any friends at Aventura hospital, Jackson Hospital, Mount Sinai hospital that could identify him if he is brought there. Pls contact me, ty!”

“Dr. Brad Cohen & his brother were in the condo that collapsed in Surfside early this morning. Their family and friends are desperate to locate them. They are hoping that Dr. Brad Cohen isn’t answering his phone because he’s helping others (if you know him, then you know this is always a possibility).”

The grief is profound and it’s everywhere. Yet, amongst the pain of not knowing and the pleas for help are generous offers of goods and services.

“If there is a victim of the recent condominium collapse in Surfside who needs a place to stay, my home is open,” said one social media post. “Please help us help them,” said another, with a list of needed items.

One friend told me that a member of her synagogue mobilized hundreds of volunteers and another shared that her daughter and her friends were making runs to Target nearly every hour. Even a high-end local jewelry story sent an email offering to give a percentage of every sale to the family of the victims.

Today, my 17 year old son’s school asked for help bringing water, food, and ice to the 400 first responders working around the clock to search for survivors in the debris. I also received additional notices that clothing and household supplies were no longer needed.

If you ask me the only thing we need now is hope. Hope that the missing residents will be found alive and hope that we will understand the cause of this tragedy, so it never happens again. The hurt caused by not knowing is unbearable. Please pray for the families of the residents of Chaplain Towers. If you want to help, here is the best way right now: https://jewishmiami.org/gift/surfsidebuildingcollapse/

Rebecca Dinar is a long-time communal professional.